- The number of people who use instant messaging will grow 9% to 4.3 billion this year as the coronavirus pandemic boosts demand for mobile communication, Juniper Research forecast in a report shared with Mobile Marketer. Digital payments will be key in maintaining growth as the pandemic subsides, giving people a reason to stick with instant messaging apps, the researcher said.
- WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat are among the apps that are predicted to develop into e-commerce channels as digital payments let retailers extend their omnichannel strategies into messaging. Retailers can broaden their services from messaging alerts to payment authentication and processing with improved support for transactions, Juniper says.
- The number of smartphones equipped with rich communication services (RCS) technology that supports media-rich content and payment services will jump 45% to more than 740 million in 2020 from a year earlier. Despite that growth, RCS will only be available in 16% of smartphones worldwide this year, per Juniper.
Instant messaging is a popular feature on smartphones with growth dependent on expanded capabilities like digital payments, Juniper's study suggests. Payment support would give mobile marketers more ways to convert passive users into active shoppers, and to maintain an ongoing relationship with their most loyal customers who opt in to receive alerts and notifications about special offers.
Marketers should develop strategies specific to instant messaging, Juniper recommends, with 84% of smartphone owners using communication apps this year. Apps like Tencent's WeChat that is popular in China demonstrates how messaging can be transformed to offer a broad range of services including digital payments, shopping, travel booking and food delivery, among others. WeChat lets marketers create "mini programs" that work inside the app, expanding the capabilities of Android phones that have limited to SMS or MMS text services.
Juniper advises marketers not wait for RCS to hit the mainstream — despite it being a major upgrade to messaging services on Android phones — to expand beyond its current limited user base before developing a marketing strategy for instant messaging. While RCS isn't supported by Apple, which has its own media-rich messaging app for iOS devices, the technology is likely to become more popular on Android devices with the support of the mobile industry. Mobile marketers need to prepare for the possibility that RCS may become more popular among consumers, opening up a sales channel that supports digital transactions and media-rich communications.