In China and the rest of Asia, many users are accessing the Internet for the first time through their mobile devices, making the region one of the most mobile-first regions of the world. Because of this, a new defining "mobile-first" consumer has emerged along with new social platforms that create rich lifestyle experiences for these mobile-savvy citizens.
Asian mobile messengers have been quick to meet the expanding needs and growing opportunities in the region. The big ones are WeChat, Line and Kakao Talk. They have become the most popular apps in many countries because they have built a wealth of service features that extend beyond the social engagement and chatting that are the base of Western social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
On WeChat, for example, users can manage financial investments, book and pay for a taxi, chat with friends and more, all within the platform.
As a result of the opportunity for rich engagement, brands have taken to a mobile first strategy. A new gelato brand from the popular Chinese bakery, 21 Cake, can only be purchased through a mobile messenger. To engage with its fans, soccer club FC Barcelona has created an official account and special branded stickers on Line.
Considering mobile as the focal point for a business' consumer engagement isn’t limited to China. It continues to spread throughout Asia and is catching on in other regions as well.
Line launched Line Pay late in 2014 to strengthen its mobile commerce offering. Kakao Talk is expanding into services with Kakao Taxi. It is meant to rival Uber and will most likely build strength in the Korean market where Kakao Talk is synonymous with communication itself.
Just last month at the Consumer Electronics Show, Caesars Entertainment collaborated with WeChat to enable guests to convert their WeChat and thus smartphones into room control devices at the Linq Hotel. Guests were able to control lighting, room temperature and more with their WeChat app.
The popularity of these platforms and their futures has already influenced western platforms – you’ll already see many of their features adapted from the stickers available on Facebook Messenger and Snapchat’s incorporation of QR codes.
A popular app or social platform can lose popularity quickly. But these mobile messengers have incorporated so many features into their platforms that they are not only retaining users, but also increasing them. When a user needs to use the app not only to communicate, but also to complete daily tasks and errands, it becomes difficult for them to remove themselves from the ecosystem the app has created. The question is to what degree the next generation of apps and social platforms will take this approach? Wisdom suggests they will create even greater innovation around the opportunity.
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Alice Hu is deputy Asia digital lead at MSLGroup.