Customization, services integration crucial for messaging apps

Amid intense competition, apps must adapt to consumer needs, be integrated with services in demand to compete in Asia.

Amid fast growth and heated competition in the mobile messaging market, a proper business plan that includes adapting to the changing consumer demands are key to sustainability, and customization to regional culture is necessary for success in Asian market.

Mobile messaging applications are starting to see strong growth worldwide but also face intense competition in the mobile messaging applications market, with new players entering with different feature sets and different integration capabilities such as social networking, pointed out Shailendra Soni, industry principal for enterprise communications in Asia-Pacific at Frost & Sullivan. She added that not every messaging app is set to survive.

For instance, Samsung's self-developed messaging app for its phones, ChatOn, is reportedly struggling despite being launched in different languages and being readily available in its devices and the success of its smartphone sales .

Its foray into the mobile messenger market appears to be unsuccessful, according to analysts cited by a Korea Times report last week. They pointed to how according to Google’s Android apps ranking posted on its Play Store website last Monday, the most downloaded free app in South Korea was Kakao Talk, with the greatest number of subscribers. This was followed by Line by NHN, which ranked 16th, while Samsung’s messenger service was ranked 64th.

Good business plan, adapt to consumers
The basic features of a successful mobile messaging app today include text messaging, the ability to quickly form groups messaging, broadcasting or the ability to send e-mail to all users in the contact list, photo and video-sharing, Soni observed.

Mobile messengers need to be supported by a proper business plan--a sound understanding of how they will eventually make money or how the messenger activities will support the core business, Aapo Markkanen, consumer mobile analyst at ABI Research advised.

All of this must be in balance of the costs, in a way that the service can be scaled to accommodate a mass market adoption, he explained.

In addition, messaging apps should be able to support different devices and capabilities to continue the conversation, Soni added, noting that consumers owning different brand devices are steadily growing in demand.

Mobile messaging providers must remain awake to the changing preferences of users and add new features which are gaining popularity, he advised.

For instance, Tencent added Weixin 101, a voice messaging platform which allows you to send voice instead of text, he cited. This was most probably inspired by TalkBox, a product with similar features which now popular in Hong Kong, he remarked.

Singapore-based WhatsApp user, Peace Chiu, noted that she enjoyed using the app because it "constantly looked into needs of their users" and adds new features. "In the past, we had to SMS everyone to coordinate an event but now we do not need to when they added group chat," she said.

Asia market wants customization
To succeed specifically in the Asian market with diverse language groups, mobile messengers be customized, or have the particular look and feel to match the culture of a particular region, Soni noted.

Some Asian mobile messaging platforms have become popular in different countries within the region because of their customization, he said.

For example, QQ Tencent is the most popular mobile instant messenger in China with more than 700 million registered users, he cited. This was echoed by Chinese user Fu Li, who noted that she was not only able to communicate with her friends across China, but also able to play games in her native language, and also shop with its e-commerce service.

Similarly, Kakao Talk has been popular because of how features were catered to the domestic market, such as language and culture. One user, South Korean Park Soo Jeong, said she enjoyed the "cute" emoticons provided by the messenging service, and found that it helped her communicate her emotions more easily with her friends.

Another Kakao Talk user in South Korea, Cho Inkyu, also added that she was able to add Korean celebrities as her friends and stay in touch with their lives when they posted updates. "It's so convenient because the developers combined it, making it social media and instant messaging at the same time," she said. "Now I don't have to log into different social media to check updates from them."