Online consumers in China, Japan, and South Korea regularly use chat apps to interact with their service providers, but Ovum’s Digital Consumer Insights 2019: Asia Pacific reveals that an increasing number of online consumers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand would like to do the same. This finding is significant because it confirms that consumer desire to use chat apps to engage with service providers is spreading globally, and beyond WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk in their respective markets.
WeChat dominates the Chinese market, with 1.15bn monthly active users as of September 30, 2019. Ovum’s consumer survey found that online consumers in China already use chat apps to interact with service providers in industry verticals, including banks (69.3% of respondents), telcos (67.2%) and food services providers (66.5%). On average, 55.5% of online consumers in China interact with service providers across different industry verticals using chat apps.
It’s taken a little longer for the global chat apps, like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, and iMessage, to catch up to WeChat, Line, and KakaoTalk in terms of platform readiness for customer care and commerce. This is significant because the Facebook-owned apps in particular – WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram – are the dominant messaging apps in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, as well as in other global markets.
However, Facebook’s suite of messaging apps (and others) have built out these capabilities, and not before time: the survey results suggest that online consumers in emerging markets in Asia Pacific are more than ready to interact with service providers using chat apps. Between 2018 and 2019 there was a significant increase in the number of online consumers in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand who would like to receive customer service on their chat apps from banks, telcos, utilities, transport companies, and shops (see Figure 1).
In fact, interest more than doubled or doubled year-on-year for interaction with transport companies, utilities, and telcos.
Ovum expects that in the coming years, the growing interest from online consumers in engaging with their service providers using chat apps will convert to usage. Companies such as Facebook are making it increasingly easier for service providers to onboard to their platforms; they also provide tools to enable a wide range of customer interactions, including commerce and customer care. The chat app providers will diversify their revenue base, service providers will extend their customer reach by adding a new channel, and online consumers will not need to switch between their apps or services to communicate or transact with their service providers. It’s a win-win-win scenario.