By now, you've surely heard of the second-largest acquisition in tech history, with Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion.
However, you may be less familiar with other messaging apps like LINE, KakaoTalk, KIK, Nimbuzz, SnapChat, Vibes, Whisper, and many others.
If you think messaging apps are just a free way to communicate, you’re missing their potential: They are Mobile’s Trojan horse, as explained by my colleague Julie Ask here.
Messaging apps are mushrooming.They illustrate perfectly the age of the customer, which Forrester defines as a new business era where your customers are now empowered through social, mobile, and other technologies giving them the power to disrupt your business. Why? Because they are mastering the four key market imperatives Forrester has identified as critical to differentiate in the age of the customer:
■ Transforming the customer experience over SMS and other messaging tools. Messaging apps offer differentiated and seamless experiences over SMS and other mobile communication tools. For example, they offer advanced group messaging functionalities, multimedia features, constant innovation, and ability to opt-in or follow brands at consumers’ convenience. They are now morphing into marketing platforms redefining social media.
Amazon is testing a new device to facilitate making a grocery list and ordering groceries through their AmazonFresh service in markets such as San Francisco and Seattle. (See TechCrunch article.) Consumers can add items to the list through voice or by barcode scan. Two things (for me) make this an interesting experiment to watch.
1) Amazon looks to profit from what we call "a mobile moment," a concept introduced in our forthcoming book, The Mobile Mind Shift. Or more specifically in this case, an impulse sales moment. As a consumer, I add an item to my grocery list before I forget. I may or may not order that day - it may be tomorrow, but I will buy it. The Dash adds convenenience - it removes friction from my shopping process. The Dash takes advantage of the immediacy of mobile. (See our report on how to create mobile moments).
3. 70% of MAU use the service daily (Source: TechCrunch)
4. WhatsApp offers users in Europe, Brazil and other emerging markets (= net new audience) (Source: Gravity/Techcrunch)
5. Nearly 200 minutes of usage each week (Source: Mobidia)
6. Facebook gets how to monetize mobile through paid advertising without wrecking the user experience. (In Q4 2013 they crossed over from 49% of revenue from mobile to 53% from a base of 945M mobile monthly active users) Source: Facebook, TechCrunch
Why $16B to $19B? I am not a financial analyst, but here are a few thoughts:
- Facebook generated $1.37B in mobile revenue in Q4 2013 on a base of 945M users ... annualized that is $5.80/MAU (monthly active user)
- WhatsApp already generates $1/user for a chunk of their users through a subscription fee (less fee to app store?)
- If WhatsApp users can be monetized at the same value, that adds another 50% approximately in mobile ad revenue
- Facebook reported 914 minutes of use on mobile per month in 2013 (Source: allthingsd.com)
Instagram’s ‘Instagram Direct’ announcement this morning left me speechless, as I followed the live feed (thank you CNET) from the West Coast. First, let me disclose that I am middle-aged. I’m 45 years of age. What does this mean? I remember AIM in the late nineties. I remember the days when chat sessions evaporated. I remember my first cell phone in 1997 and texting my friends – mostly in Europe at that time. The idea of communicating with people I know first and foremost is not new to me. It is very comfortable – more so than Tweeting or posting.
Bottom line: This is a “catch-up” move for Instagram.
1) Mobile phones have always been about communicating with friends and people we know. The magic of mobile phones early on was that a person’s phone number was their ID. It made it so easy to send SMS or MMS messages.
2) Instagram has 150M downloads, and half of their users are active daily. That is awesome. However, its competitors globally – Kakao Talk, WeChat, etc. – have two to three times that number. Apps like WeChat already allow users to share videos, photos, messages, cartoons, voice clips, etc. to individuals, groups, groups created around an event, etc.
3) Messaging will help them earn more mobile media minutes. I spoke with Chris Hill at Mobidia last week, and he shared some of their data on usage minutes. In their sample from mid-October, Kakao Talk had more than 200 minutes of usage per week, WhatsApp was just shy of 200, while Kik Messenger, LINE, and WeChat fell just below 100 minutes of use per week. If they were to post ads as a means of monetization, minutes spent is key.
Push notifications make the most of mobile marketing’s unique attributes: intimacy, immediacy, and context. When consumers opt in to receive push notifications, it means they trust you to the point of giving you permission to contact them on their most personal devices. If your messages are not relevant, you will lose your best customers.
Our research shows that consumers who receive push notifications are also the heaviest app users. However, to avoid being spammed with irrelevant messages, consumers increasingly want to be in control, setting preferences on the types of messages they want to receive and when they want to receive them.
While push notifications enable better engagement, the challenge for marketers will be to think beyond just push notifications for smartphone apps. Push notifications already extend messaging to other connected devices. How will push notifications complement email, SMS, and in-app messaging? How will performance from various direct marketing channels evolve?
To differentiate, marketers will have to integrate push into cross-channel and CRM platforms and integrate mobile as a variable of their customer base. Marketing vendors will have to add new messaging platforms, like push notifications, into their core offerings, pushing for another wave of consolidation highlighted by the recent acquisition of Xtify by IBM.