Market Insight

Messaging apps exceeded 6 billion combined monthly active users in 2017

May 02, 2018

Jun Wen Woo Jun Wen Woo Senior Research Analyst – Online Video, IHS Markit

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Following is the latest information and insight about the global growth of messaging apps. 

Highlights

  • Mobile messaging apps tracked by IHS Markit achieved a combined user base of 6.1 billion monthly active users by the end of 2017. As the market matures, the overall growth rate is slowing and smaller players are struggling.
  • Facebook and Tencent dominate the global messaging market, together accounting for 75 percent of monthly active users in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Engagement over user acquisition

Major messaging companies with large audiences continue to prioritize user engagement over user acquisition. To drive monetization, messaging companies are expanding the range of content and services, to keep users within their communication platforms.

Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat and others have now shifted their focus to user engagement and new ways to drive revenue. Monetization strategies include in-app games and stickers, charging for promotional messages, advertising channels, and payment, commerce and services platforms.

Video communications and content are central to messaging app strategies

Video content and related products help messaging companies drive retention, engagement and monetization.

Having a strong video proposition is vital for almost all messaging and social apps — including video calling, advertising, messaging, live broadcast and professional content.

Messaging companies expand into business communications

More companies are using messaging services to advertise their products and send promotional messages, in order to increase brand awareness.

The growing demand for business communications is demonstrated by the launch of WhatsApp for business. Other messaging services are offering companies official accounts or verified business accounts on their platforms, to engage with messaging users and potential customers.

Business communications could drive engagement across the messaging platform and add incremental revenues, but the main challenge is minimizing disruption of the core user experience.

International struggles for smaller players despite local success

Smaller players in major markets that have been struggling to gain more users are likely to face increased competition from international and regional players. Country-focused messaging platforms, like Kakao and Line, already have a strong position and deep service integration in their local markets, which should help them defend their positions for some time. However, they are not immune to competition. The huge resources available to Facebook, Tencent and other large platforms means smaller players must continue to innovate, to maintain audience engagement.

Google revamps messaging strategy, again

Google revamped its messaging platform strategy again by launching Chat. Instead of going full over the top (OTT), the online search giant relies on operator standards as a way to ensure the default position on Android phones. However, it is challenging for Google chat to acquire users, as the market is already crowded with players with large numbers of active users.

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