This is the year it becomes official: it’s mobile media’s world — we just live in it.
According to WARC’s Global Ad Trends Report, brands will spend $153.2bn this year on mobile advertising across a dozen markets that collectively account for the lion’s share of the global ad business, including the US, the UK, China, Brazil and Russia. Due to the proliferation of mobile devices, never before has there been so much opportunity for marketers to reach us where we live and while we’re on the go.
This year, the number of mobile users worldwide will surpass 5 billion, according to Statista, which equated to two-thirds of the planet. An ever-growing number of those mobile devotees are using messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, Line, KakaoTalk, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. In fact, the number of people on messaging apps globally will reach nearly 2.2 billion this year — up from 1.6 billion three years ago.
Messaging apps have changed not only how we communicate with one another, but also how we shop, do our banking, order up dinner — and yes, interact with brands.
But while messaging apps present enormous possibility, they remain uncharted territory for many marketers still uncertain of how best to take advantage of their potential, even as more creative and sophisticated marketing tools continue to emerge all the time on these platforms — among them, chatbots, specialized ad formats and features like branded emojis.
Here are five reasons why the world’s most popular messaging apps should be a part of every brand’s mobile marketing arsenal:
1. They create relationships
Every brand wants to have a connection with its audience — and no platform provides marketers with the up close and personal relationships with consumers like messaging apps. Consider the very nature of the medium — its basis is conversations with friends, transactions with trusted brands, the most personal day-to-day activity. What better venue is there for a brand to forge an intimate dialogue and abiding trust among its customers?
Marketers have become very creative about employing chatbots to build customer relationships via messaging apps. One of the most famous examples (and a pioneer in the space) is Whole Foods, whose popular Facebook Messenger-based bot enables users to find information about recipes and ingredients right in the store, employing a combination of emojis and text to clever effect.
Other brands examples include Lyft, who lets users hail a ride via Slack and Facebook Messenger and the cosmetic retailer, Sephora, who offers makeup tips via Facebook Messenger and Kik.
As an avid traveler, a personal favorite is the persistent messaging thread offered by KLM in Facebook Messenger makes having critical, up to the minute, information easier than ever taking some of the stress out of flying.
An oft-quoted Facebook survey revealed that even in these privacy-conscious times, 61% of consumers welcome personalized brand communications by way of messaging apps. It would be hard to imagine a more receptive audience.
2. They deliver results
Messaging apps have been called “the Wild West of brand marketing,” and for good reason. Luckily for brands just now looking to stake their claim, the path to marketing gold is well on its way to being cut.
Amazon, Starbucks and Gap are just a few of the brands to have measurable success with messaging campaigns. For example, Gap employed the popular Chinese app WeChat (user base of more than 1 billion; greater than Europe’s total population and 3X the U.S. population) for a social data-based retail promotion. Data was used to target users with a coupon that was downloaded by 60% of those who received it. Furthermore, 26% went on to redeem the coupon. While WeChat and its brand partners are pioneers, the story of messaging ads is only beginning to be written.
Consider that the world’s most popular messaging app (with 1.5 billion users), Facebook-owned WhatsApp, is just now getting into the ad game. And according to the Buffer State of Social “Social Media Report 2018”, 80% of marketers surveyed indicated that they had never put ads on messaging apps. That means a whole new world of opportunity awaits.
Still, look to the marketers who came first — study how they harnessed the platform for maximum effectiveness, and learn from them. Early footsteps to follow to deliver results for your brand include providing utility, novelty, or rewards for loyal customers.
3. They’re highly customizable
The personalized nature of messaging apps makes them uniquely customizable — and, well, personalized. As with any form of advertising, brands must consider a million little details before committing to a messaging campaign.
What is your objective? Driving sales? Increasing awareness of your brand? Customer service and retention? Who is your target audience, and which app is most likely to reach those consumers? Increasingly creative options exist when it comes to fashioning a messaging ad — which are most likely to resonate with your audience? Crucially, how will you be able to gauge results once the campaign has wrapped?
A marketer should never have a one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to crafting creative across an array of media — each platform has nuance, and messaging apps are no different.
Customization remains a selling point of the medium. Beauty brands have found success when incorporating augmented reality lenses into their messaging experiences increasing virtual trial to drive online or in-store sales.
Conversely, a luxury or travel brand, for example, might want to test a WeChat campaign targeting in-market travelers, or those who live in the U.K. who stay connected with friends and family in China via the platform.
At GroupM, our WeChat incubator, which provides geographic expertise and service in real time, has enabled scores of advertisers to create localized campaigns that deliver. Yet another approach to personalization within messaging has been taken by Unilever’s Dove brand. Staying true to their campaign for true beauty messaging a branded keyboard was developed so curly haired people could better personalize their messages with friends. Thanks to Dove my wavy-haired emoji void was filled and I could better represent myself across text and messaging apps.
4. They are now
If you’re a brand looking to be on the cutting edge of marketing technology as well as “in” with the cool crowd (that would be, the most desirable demos — namely, the younger consumers most desirable to advertisers), look to messaging apps.
NBC just produced the 1,000th episode of its Snapchat news show “Stay Tuned,” which employs a dedicated team of 30 people and which earned 4 million subscribers in its first five months. It now reaches a reported 30 million unique viewers each month, an army of rabid young fans who have made the show’s hosts, including 36-year-old Gadi Schwartz, the modern-day journalism equivalent of rock stars. “Stay Tuned,” a two-minute program, has earned the network millions of devoted fans. It stands to reason that if you’re keen to connect with the next generation of your brand’s customers, expanding your digital footprint to platforms that support messaging positions you in front of the highly coveted, oftentimes difficult group to find elsewhere.
Look no further than Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement about Facebook’s shift to building for private networks to see now is the time to test and learn.
5. They are the future
When the creators of messaging apps set out to monetize the technology and first started to dip a toe into the ad business, there was a great cry among consumers and tech journalists — nightmare predictions of feeds littered with brand messages were rampant. Now, such fears seem almost quaint. We know that the future of advertising is that advertising is everywhere — from taxicabs to video games to spaceships and even the human body. It is a simple fact of our thoroughly commercialized, commoditized and consumerized planet.
While the technology is still relatively nascent where brands provide convenience to consumers, it’s been shown they’re presence in messaging environments is welcomed. While much experimentation continues on the part of brands and the apps themselves, connecting with consumers, 1:1 rather than old guard broadcast advertising, is a natural fit for messaging apps and the consumers who are devoted to them (after all, the platform has surpassed even social media in popularity). In our fully mobilized culture, it’s destined to become an even greater part of our everyday lives. Isn’t it time you got on board?