Messaging Apps and new spaces for relationships with brands

Judith Garijo

2 November 2017

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As technology evolves, resulting in new solutions and methods of interaction, brands are looking for ways to implement this technology and to connect with an audience that is always one step ahead and which increasingly demands a more personal and private space. In these spaces, there is room only for those companies who provide real value.

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The ubiquity of smartphones, as we have seen in our recent article: “Planet of the Apps: how messaging apps conquered the world”, has massively affected our own interpersonal relationships. We are hyperconnected; we can connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere. We can reach macro-audiences via social networks, and chat with our nearest and dearest through private messaging apps.

This is the new digital relationship landscape and it is not showing signs of slowing down; the amount of time spent on mobile devices increases each year. We are constantly and intermittently connected, experiencing what Google calls “Micromoments”. The average smartphone user dedicates roughly 15 to 20% of their monthly mobile time to chatting.

In the following graph we can see clearly how apps help blur the lines between public and private, as the bulk of time we spend interacting with apps is spent connecting with others.


Source: Flurry Analytics, 2015–2016 Year-Over-Year Time Spent Growth

Whilst interacting via social networks is still a popular mode of communication, it’s messaging apps that are taking up most of our time. The most popular messaging applications have already surpassed the most popular social platforms in terms of number of active users. They’re also leading in terms of time spent interacting with the platform.

In terms of acquisition, according to Liftoff, it costs companies an average of $4.12 to get a user to download an application, $8.21 to acquire a registered user, and getting someone to buy something in-app costs around $64.96 per user. This brings us to a third, by no means less important, problem with investing in your own application; recurrence of use. How can we ensure users return to our app (after we have sacrificed financially in order to produce it)? How do we ensure our app won’t be deleted?

2 1Source: Business Insider

Despite increasing screen time, our attention span is more fragmented than ever, which is only further complicated by a limited amount of space in which to store apps produced in an already oversaturated market. In summary, time is limited, phone memory is limited, but what we’re able to offer the consumer is limitless. People are looking for more direct communication and, at the same time, they’re exploring new ways of enhancing their social experiences with digital tools. In August 2015, a study of US Smartphone users revealed that 43% of smartphone owners used a daily average of 4-6 applications. A recent study by App Annie saw this number increase to 10 apps per day.


Source: AppAnnie

In 2016, Deloitte divulged that 80% of apps developed by brands never exceed 1,000 downloads. As the app development market continues to grow at a breakneck pace, the situation becomes even more daunting.

Looking at the most downloaded apps today, we see that messaging apps (and mobile games) are leading the way. Recurrence of use is higher than average as well.

Source : Emarketer


Source: Statista

How have messenger apps evolved to become such a great business opportunity? Because they can provide brands with a measure of relevance that has been so far unattainable on mobile devices.

In the face of these changes in consumption, brands are refocusing their efforts on providing a more wider-reaching presence, making themselves more available to their audience, and any other potential audience.. The effort previously dedicated to the development of owned applications, is now being used to find solutions that add value to those users exploring a consumer/brand environment previously closed to anyone but friends and family. What’s the point in creating a great user experience in an unfamiliar environment, when we could deliver that same experience in an environment which is not only accessible, but already wildly popular?

These new environments that favour messaging apps not only enable a closer, personalised and more direct relationship between the brand and its audience, but also facilitate more natural and fluid communication (which email marketing does not allow), a greater understanding of context and, as a result, greater user retention and linkage. Moreover, brands can obtain data direct from the user, which helps them to better understand their needs and expectations.

Are we forecasting an end to owned apps? Not just yet. Brands that have had the ability to generate and link up their own communities, dragging them over onto a brand new platform, have been able to maximise their profits. We see this, for example, in apps that allow direct purchase- fashion brands  often achieve even higher levels of purchase recurrence through owned apps than through their own website. However, when messaging applications start allowing direct transactions, without the user having to leave the chat itself, we can expect drastic change. Some companies, such as Net-A-Porter, are already working to close sales through Whatsapp.

Barring technological difficulties, constructing a brand presence within messaging apps is a sure bet and, once again, democratises, as in the past with social networks, the way in which users interact with emerging brands. Companies seeking to increase their visibility and linkage with users need to remove those barriers to entry and make themselves available where their consumers are – messaging applications – in the most creative and attractive way possible.

What impact does a brand’s presence across different messaging applications have in relation to the development of its own apps? Firstly, the former have a larger potential audience that can be reached with fewer resources (in terms of development, download generation and traffic, as well as lower maintenance costs) coupled with a higher return on investment, as they are geared towards higher volumes with, a priori, lower acquisition costs.  

On the other hand, if, instead of focusing on efficiency, we focus on effectiveness, what openness/reading rate does Whatsapp generate (e.g.) compared to a newsletter? There are sources that place this reading rate at around 98%, significantly higher than the opening rate of SMS marketing. And what of the data gathered?

However, the biggest handicap they face is establishing a model in which real value is on offer, one which creates a memorable user experience and helps that organisation to achieve their business objectives. It should also be borne in mind that, as in any outside environment, you are subject to the conditions of the application’s owner, who may later on require you to “pay a toll” to continue in their environment. As demand increases we will keep a watch on the new conditions imposed on brands entering these hereto private spaces.

Many companies are becoming aware of this paradigm shift in the relationship model between them and their audience, and are articulating new strategies in which they invite their audiences to interact with them through these new private communication environments. It is often the user who, proactively, takes the first step in making contact with the brand.

Let’s think for a moment on what it means for a user to add a brand to their contacts to reach them via Whatsapp. They are now a part of that same phone book, in which your nearest nucleus of friends and family, your work contacts wallet and your emergency telephone numbers are stored…symbolically, will they have crossed the barrier into the user’s circle of trust?

To achieve this, brands have to guarantee one thing: they will not be intrusive.




Entertainment: Ingredients of success

Hellmann’s Mayonnaise wanted to establish a reputation as that ingredient you first reach for when you’re trying to salvage a meal, or create something out of nothing. To do this, they created a website where users were invited to register their mobile number, and in return, receive authentic master classes in cooking, taught by a team of expert chefs, through WhatsApp. The process was both simple and brilliant; users could take a photo of the inside of fridge, indicating the number of ingredients they already had access to, and they were then rewarded with a personalised cooking tutorial that would help them get the most out of what they had in stock – all centred around an essential protagonist – Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.

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Source: BSC Agency

Hellmann’s leveraged every feature available on WhatsApp in order to create a full and engaging user experience by incorporating the sending of photos, videos and voice messages into the campaign – generating content in multiple formats and creating true branded storytelling – conquering the minds and stomachs of their audience.

The campaign, which was originally launched in Brazil in 2014, was replicated in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, impacting more than 5 million people. More than 13,000 people registered (1 out of every 2 visitors to the site registered their phone number), and 99.5% of users were satisfied with the solution offered by their chef. The brand indicates that, on average, each user interacted 65 minutes with the tag.