Driven by Facebook and other market leaders, more than 1.4 billion consumers will use mobile messaging apps this year.
That’s according to the latest projections from eMarketer. If accurate, the fresh figure will represent a 31.6% increase in usage rates, year-over-year.
Worldwide, that means 75% of smartphone users will use an over-the-top (OTT) mobile messaging app at least once a month, this year. Moreover, the popularly of messaging apps has not peaked. Rather, by 2018, the number of chat app users worldwide will reach 2 billion -- representing 80% of smartphone users.
Cathy Boyle, senior mobile analyst at eMarketer, attributes the mobile messaging boom to several factors.
“Some of the key drivers of mobile messaging's growth include consumers' growing interest in intimate forums for social sharing, the multiple modes of communication offered by messaging apps and the growing number of features offered, including peer-to-peer payments and mcommerce," Boyle explains in a new report.
Thanks to significant reach in more than 20 countries, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger -- both owned by Facebook -- are officially "global powerhouse" apps, by eMarketer’s reckoning.
Mobile phone messaging apps is defined by eMarketer as services that provide private one-to-one or one-to-many communication between registered users, where messages and calls are then transmitted via data connections and the mobile web on a regional basis.
OTT messaging apps have shown heavy usage in Asia-Pacific, where 58% of the world's messaging app population lives.
Latin America also shows strong usage, with 68.1% of mobile internet users using a mobile messaging app once a month. This share will increase to 77.4% by the end of 2019, eMarketer expects.
As for business models, no two services are alike. While some services are strictly focused on growing their audiences, WeChat is seen as leading in terms of monentization, with the most diverse and advanced methods for making money.
“While most agree that the WeChat model cannot be duplicated 100%, certain aspects of its ‘platform concept’ have inspired others to venture further into commerce and payments, most notably Facebook,” according to eMarketer.
The most popular revenue models that have emerged include paid digital content (such as games, videos and emojis), advertising (official accounts, in-feed ads), mcommerce (in-app purchases), online-to-offline commerce (ordering food, hailing a cab) and finance (peer-to-peer payments and subscriptions).
eMarketer considers mobile phone messaging app users to be individuals who make use of such services on at least a monthly basis.