The acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook for $19 billion was proof that real time messaging is taking over communication as we know it. Whether the $19 billion price tag is worthwhile or not, the fact is that rich, real-time, digital communication is having a major impact in the world and has the potential to become more important than the internet itself.
Imagine a world where everyone is always connected, everywhere they are – this world is imminent and brands need to be prepared. For businesses, especially those striving to expand their reach in Asia, understanding the latent potential of real time messaging could provide a handy competitive advantage.
Asia has been quietly emerging as an incubator for this type of technology, and although WhatsApp is the dominant player in the space and based in the US, there are a number of exciting companies poised for perhaps even greater growth heating up in Asia.
The major players include WeChat from China (272 million users) and Kakao Talk from Korea (133 million users) that are quickly gaining adoption beyond Asian borders. But one that is particularly exciting is a company called LINE, which was developed by a Japanese unit of Korean Internet giant Naver, and has 350 million registered users.
This is a company that could have the potential to disrupt both Facebook and WhatsApp when it fully enters the Australian market.
For businesses, there are three key points we should be considering when we look at the potential impact of this shift:
Speed and scale
The speed of scale and adoption of this technology is incredible. If you look at disclosed numbers, they alone add up to 1.3 billion consumers. There are nearly 2.7 billion people on the internet today, 18 years later, and messaging technology has penetrated more than half that number in about 3 years. This coterie of messaging companies virtually holds the key to consumers today.
Voice is fading
Messaging has emerged as the dominant form of communication globally. This shift in consumer behavior began with Short Message Service (SMS) and with the advent of smartphones, has accelerated into a more rich and meaningful communication experience. There is a generation of people out there who rarely use the phone for talking, but are fluent in Emojis and 7 second videos for self-expression. This young generation is the next generation of buyers, and they live in these digital channels.
The next wave for commerce
These messaging services are more than a communication channel- they are powerful platforms for commerce. While US based services have yet to crack the commerce puzzle, a majority of these Asian companies launched their messaging services with a commerce strategy in tow.
The majority of these companies grew up in mobile-first economies, where mobile penetration not only outpaced Internet growth, but dominates consumer activity. Asia is miles ahead when it comes to the mobile economy, whether its commerce, payments, and other innovations. Once Western markets catch on, the implications will be enormous.
Dustin Dean is vice president of APAC at LivePerson