Messengers, so much more than just messaging

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We all have our family groups, friend groups, even work groups on WhatsApp. I am no exception, but I do have one exception in my family. My brother refuses to use WhatsApp.

That inspired me to dig a little deeper into the world of messenger services to see if there is another way of communicating with my off-social-media brother. What I found was quite an eye-opener.

If you are based in South Africa and most of your contacts are either in South Africa or in Germany (as in my case), you would think that WhatsApp is the only instant messenger service in the world, because that’s all we are using.

But do you remember WeChat? It used to be the messenger I used before WhatsApp took over. Recently I read that WeChat has reached the 1 billion user mark which makes WeChat the 3rd-largest instant messenger service in the world (behind WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger). The main market for WeChat is China.

You might think that’s too far away what does it have to do with me? Well, if you are in the travel and tourism industry WeChat might become the tool to use to reach the growing target group of Chinese tourists.

Is WeChat just another messenger? What’s the difference?

Apps like Google Maps, Uber, Snap Scan, to name a few, are not used and probably not even known by the Chinese traveller, which makes them pretty lost abroad where companies and services are not available on WeChat.

So, if your tourism or travel business wants to reach this massively growing market you will have to jump on the latest WeChat bandwagon or you will be the one losing out.

The typical WeChat user organises his/her daily life around the App. It is not only about chatting with friends, family and work colleagues, WeChat comprises many mini-apps within the umbrella app. Customer service centres within WeChat have replaced hotlines to call, cash and credit cards have been replaced by in-app payment solutions.  A tangible example from the travel industry is Airport Munich which is active on WeChat and shops located in the airport allow payment via WeChat.

WhatsApp is still the most popular instant messenger service worldwide, but…

….you won’t be able to find visually creative features, apps or programmes within WhatsApp. Payment solutions via WhatsApp are currently being tested in India, some companies are starting to use WhatsApp bots. They aren’t as user-friendly as other bots however.

WhatsApp does what WhatsApp knows best – personal communication. Businesses, especially in emerging markets, and where a quick and personal communication is still key, are using WhatsApp regularly. Even bigger retailers are starting to do WhatsApp marketing, which works best for Sales push notifications etc.

Facebook Messenger – in between WeChat and WhatsApp?

Facebook Messenger has evolved quite a bit. It started off as a function within Facebook, then evolved into a stand-alone instant messenger. A few airlines already use Facebook Messenger as a chatbot, and developers are working towards a more integrated approach for mini-apps.

So back to the moral of the story, I now use Skype to communicate with my brother.