Messenger services are ubiquitous nowadays; they are the new way to communicate for the younger generation. Because these communication channels are such an important part of our lives and help us to stay in touch, this article dives into the future world of messengers. Let us take a look at the status quo first and then we move forward to the future of the messenger bot economy.

Which messenger services do the Germans use?

The clear leader of the most used messenger services in Germany is WhatsApp. According to the online survey 2017 by ARD / ZDF, around 64 percent of Germans use the messenger service every week. Skype follows with 16 percent monthly users and the Facebook messenger follows with 15 percent. 9 percent use Apple iMessage and 5 percent are Google Hangouts users (Bitkom). Snapchat has caught up since 2016 and has 6 percent weekly users in Germany (ARD / ZDF). WhatsApp is definitely the market leader in Germany. The messenger service has 1.3 billion monthly users. The Facebook Messenger follows just behind with 1.2 billion users (Facebook).

Worldwide comparison

In comparison with the worldwide usage, WhatsApp and the Facebook Messenger are also ahead. QQ Mobile, WeChat, Skype, Viber, Line, Kik, Blackberry Messenger and KakaoTalk follow them. WeChat is a competitor to WhatsApp and has significantly increased in active users in the last year. Currently there are 963 million active users worldwide (Tencent).
The mentioned messengers are not by any means all, Threema from Switzerland or Telegram from Russia are also well-known. New messenger providers sprout on every corner, but the advantage WhatsApp has is that so many people are already using the service. This creates the network effect – the more people use a particular service, the higher is the willingness of others to use the same service. It is extremely difficult for other and especially new providers to catch up because it is not attractive for users to communicate in a messenger when there is no other contact present.

Messenger in marketing

Due to the high attention paid to the messages sent via messenger, there are also good marketing opportunities. More information about how, e.g. WhatsApp can be used properly for marketing purposes, you will find in our blog post “The correct Use of Whatsapp in Marketing” or in the post “WhatsApp and Co. – the most important mobile messengers from a marketing point of view“.
The Chinese messenger WeChat is such a big competitor to other messenger services, because it offers more than the usual functions like video call or group chats. WeChat is the connection to the offline world for users. You can order taxis and groceries or pay bills. All this and much more is possible through the integration of bots.

What is a bot?

Bots are programs that serve as interfaces and interact automatically between humans and machines. In the future, bots will possibly replace apps and offer people the advantage that they do not have to deal with searching among a hundred possibilities for their current problem on the internet. For example, the bot can independently and in real-time search to find the cheapest flight and then submit suggestions to the user. In marketing, chat bots can revolutionize customer service and support as the system deals with customer concerns and provide solutions instead. This not only saves time and money, but also increases the satisfaction of customers, who can get help anytime through their usual way of communicating in Messengers.

What are the challenges?

One of the key challenges is the question what will prompt users to really use the bots. It is also crucial for the mass-market penetration that the technology works well to meet user expectations and demonstrate the benefits from the beginning on. Another challenge that is especially sensitive in Germany is data security and transparency for users. Because bots have the opportunity to access personal data and to process it, clear rules have to be drafted in order to regulate the handling here. The question of transparency is particularly relevant in the context of social media, because bots can, for example, create fake profiles, send tweets and thus influence the process of forming opinions of the real users. In addition, such actions distort the market value of social media platforms.
However, with the many options that bots offer to businesses and users in everyday life, it will only be a matter of time before solutions to the remaining obstacles have developed.

Rich Communication Services (RCS) – the new standard

The new Rich Communication Services Standard as a successor to the classic SMS mixes up the messenger world additionally. All android devices of the new generation can use the service. RCS combines the standard mobile communication channels (SMS, MMS, etc.) with messenger functions (location transfer, video call, etc.). Messages or files are directly transmitted to the smartphone without the need for another app. Sending messages and files not only over the Internet, but also over the mobile network is another advantage. Many android smartphone providers and German providers support RCS. If a device is not capable of RCS, it is possible to send the message as SMS or email. For companies, RCS is particularly interesting because many actions, such as booking a flight ticket, will be possible in the message feed without opening the browser or any other app.

Future of messengers

Over the next few years, many organizations are likely to develop their own bots to facilitate the lives of their customers through messengers. With the set of possibilities with RCS and the high potential for bots in messengers we conclude, that the spreading of messengers as marketing channel will continue to grow. According to eMarketer, in Germany alone there will be 30 million messaging apps by 2020.