20 Messaging Apps Reach 20 Billion Subscribers on Mobile


The only constant with messaging apps is change. In the early years of mobile, SMS ruled supreme as the preferred, and often times only available, form of communication for millions. With the introduction of smart devices like the Blackberry and Palm Pilot, email found its place in the mobile experience. For years, mobile users were restricted to the communication made available by their phone manufacturers and carriers. Fast forward to 2007 with the launch of the Apple iPhone, and the App Store along with it, and the closed carrier, manufacturer, user ecosystem began to open up. The App Store enabled developers to create their own alternatives to the classic SMS communication, allowing people and brands to communicate in exciting new ways. Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, alongside the success of Snapchat and WeChat, has created an explosion in the development and popularity of messaging apps.

There are over 20 billion subscribers total worldwide among the most well-known mobile messaging apps. The subscriber number is the total subscribers over the top 20 apps, allowing for the same individual to be counted more than once. This number does not reflect the total unique individuals of course with only 7.4 billion people worldwide, but a reflection of the fact that consumers rely on more than one messaging app and use each for a different purpose. Native applications like email, push, MMS, and wallet reign supreme with text messaging (SMS) accounting for nearly a quarter of the total reach. Upstarts like Snapchat and WeChat are increasingly pulling in marketers’ mindshare and changing how people use mobile through dynamic features like stickers, media, and payments.

As the mobile messaging market continues to mature with innovations like Rich Communications Services (RCS), a carrier initiative led by Google for an “SMS 2.0,” we will see exciting opportunities for brands to engage like never before. Mobile wallet is a form of mobile messaging and the ability to push updates in a richer format with payment enablement will drive further ways for engagement. Facebook Messenger continues to pace the field with overlaid functionality on their once basic IM messaging. The future promises internet of things messaging, robot messaging and of course virtual reality messaging. For marketers, SaaS automation platforms will be the key to driving ROI through customer acquisition, retention, loyalty and engagement in the ever-growing number of mobile messaging channels.

At Waterfall, our priority for clients is help ensure their campaigns drive positive ROI, which we calculate as the effectiveness of the program multiplied by the size of the database. The key to this success is understanding the difference, and opportunities, of each channel. Each of these channels has a unique context, form factor, and audience that require careful thought before investing. What works on one channel for one audience might not work for another and marketers will do well to understand the subtle nuances that make each great.

Brands need to focus on first building a loyal subscriber on the 5 major channels before moving on. Resist the temptation to chase the “shiny objects” first before laying down a solid foundation with the established channels that have larger audiences. SMS, MMS, and email and teach you a lot about your audience, what they want, and how they want to be engaged.

If you’re interested in learning how to engage customers and build loyal followings among the over 20 billion mobile messaging subscribers worldwide, drop us a line at sales@waterfall.com.

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