Just when companies start to get their head around a new medium filled with marketing potential, another springs up to take its place and demand focus. The rise of mobile shouldn't be new to anyone, but just as companies fulfilled their mantra to 'go digital', it seems 'going mobile' has swooped in as the latest marketing buzzword.
Six of the 10 most used apps globally are messaging apps - namely WhatsApp, Line, Viber, KakaoTalk, WeChat and Facebook Messenger - and they're only growing in popularity. Many of these are 'mobile only', and the other mobile apps that boast messaging functions - Instagram and Snapchat, for example - lack full desktop function manifestation. Mobile gaming and shopping are following chat in terms of exponential growth and, in the war between mobile and desktop, one side is emerging victorious.
And messaging apps are bigger than social media apps themselves; with about 3 billion users per month compared to around 2.5 billion. By the end of 2016, 49% of US mobile users will use mobile messaging apps (according to eMarketer) and though almost every business understands the necessity to 'go mobile', getting the most out of messaging app marketing specifically will pay dividends. The messaging app market is predicted to generate a healthy $25 billion in annual revenue by 2017, guaranteeing any fast-mover a healthy ROI if an effective strategy can be found.
Experimentation is going to be key, just as in the early days of the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and there is certainly no handbook for messaging app marketing. British shoemakers Clarks, for example, are running their 'From Rats To Rudeboys' campaign - regarding the creation and cultural impact of their iconic desert boots - exclusively on WhatsApp. Anyone with the app can message Steve Barrows, a prominent mod and now cultural historian, 'live from 1962' to 'find out what it was really like to be a mod.' Clarks will include Parisian photographer Bruno Barney and reggae and rudeboy icon Major Stitch in a campaign designed to grab the consumer and seduce them with the culture and folklore surrounding the product. Their shareable Youtube videos detail the rise of mod and rudeboy, in London and Jamaica respectively, all within the framework of the desert boot's influence, a step into the world of multimedia-driven advertising that mobile facilitates. The campaign includes links out to the likes of a Spotify playlist, the brand's eCommerce site and social media. Innovative solutions like this, whether or not they bear fruit, will pave the way for similarly fresh ideas; consumer driven ideas that take conventional advertising and turn it into a dialogue rather than a bombardment.
These kinds of experimental marketing techniques are made possible by the expansion of the capabilities of the apps themselves. More than simply being messaging platforms, the apps are becoming increasingly multifunctional. South Korea's KakaoTalk, China's WeChat and Japan's Line have demonstrated the merits of adding functionality to messaging apps. The change is most pronounced in Asia, but the West is catching up - Uber announced at the end of 2015 that customers would be able to request cars through Facebook Messenger, via a 'transportation' capability that will include competitors, too. And the drive to open up messaging apps to new forms of commerce is just beginning; expect to be able to book tables, buy cinema tickets and groceries on Facebook Messenger in the very near future. Having your brand included on the list of participating restaurants, cinemas and stores is a strong marketing move in itself, and Facebook is likely to offer favourable placement on their directory to the highest-paying brand.
Snapchat sells ads in its Live Stories as well as offering Sponsored Lenses (filters), WhatsApp is set to open up to brands this year - in more of a notification service than third-party advertising - and your company should be ready to exploit the myriad of marketing opportunities likely to present themselves on messaging apps in the coming years, as more app developers look to monetize their user base. The area is still very much in its infancy but, as marketing opportunities on messaging apps grow in both diversity and value, acting early could ensure your company don't miss out.