Technology with attitude

Why WhatsApp is struggling in the U.S. While Kik and Snapchat are Thriving

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In usual circumstances, the United States is always ahead when it comes to internet trends, something that can be evidenced by the popularization of Facebook and Google search.

However, this market lags behind in one sector – the instant messaging world. Instant messaging  is the talk of the town today and for sure, there is nowhere you will go and not find someone using any of WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, Skype, Facebook Messenger, LINE, Snapchat, Kik and many other messaging apps.

These instant messaging apps are no longer just simple texting apps and instead, they are turning into something else, especially with the popularity and dominance they are gaining. One example is in India where there are already more than 70 million people using WhatsApp. Here, the popularity of this messenger has grown to an extent that it is being used by doctors and patients in keeping in touch with each other.

It is also reported that Brazil has a WhatsApp penetration rate of more than 70% where other than texting and making voice calls, the app is also used to sell products, promote a variety of motions or even political candidates, as well as replace the workplace email. Another major app that is doing marvelous is LINE thanks to its more than 600 million user base, with 53 million of them being residents of Japan. This app generated revenue of $234 million in the recent quarter thanks to the many games it sells to its users.

There is also WeChat, another major player in the messaging and voice calling industry that is widely used in China and other parts of Asia. This app is equipped with lots of amazing features, among them an operating system that assists with e-commerce as well as digital publishing.

WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger have been unsuccessful at replacing SMS in the U.S.

There is no chat app that has managed to reach the same heights that WeChat and LINE have reached in their respective markets as far as the U.S. market is concerned. However, it’s not that Americans are against this technology hence the slow update of messaging apps, but it is because for a long time Americans have been sending text messages free. This is something that is just coming to many countries from all over the world yet the top three carriers in the U.S. have offered free voice calling and SMS services from 2010.

In Europe, telecom companies still levy hefty charges for making voice calls and sending messages, especially when contacting anyone who is off your network. Some of these rates have only begun taking shape in the recent past.

Even though Americans may not be aware, research shows that there is a decline in the number of SMS’s sent annually has declined since 2011. However, other countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America have seen worse declines in SMS services than the U.S. It has been very easy for WhatsApp, Viber and LINE to come to Europe, Africa, and Asia and say, “hey, we are offering free text messages” and millions will rally behind them.This is not the same case in the U.S.

Perhaps a different direction for WhatsApp, Viber and co will do

So, how come we still have a significant presence of chat apps in the U.S.? Well, the two most messaging apps in the country (apart from Facebook Messenger) – Snapchat and Kik – have some big reasons as to why they remain to be such a success. One concept behind them is they both offer solid privacy to users.

To use WhatsApp or Viber, one needs a phone number. However, Kik only asks for a username during registration, and one can choose any name. The good thing about this signup method is that it lets kids without phone numbers sign up for an account using their iPad. Also, blocking someone on Kik will leave them without any alternative of reaching you, unlike WhatsApp or Viber, which will still leave someone with your phone number even if you block them.

Snapchat makes use of the same registration parameters where only a username is needed. Also, this app has centered its services on fast-disappearing snapshots, something that many young people are in love with.

What’s next for Snapchat and Kik?

Even though Snapchat and Kik are doing just fine in the U.S. market, they will have to add in more efforts if they have to reach the same heights as Facebook and WeChat. Introducing e-commerce and media-like features will not be enough, adding more users to the platform is also very essential. One particular user group that they should target is older Americans who still don’t see any good reason to move from free text messaging to instant messaging via messengers.

The fact is that if they don’t move in with new additions, someone else will, and it’s a familiar name – Facebook. Using the Facebook Messenger app, the company has already positioned itself in asimilar fashion as WeChat. However, if Americans remain firm lovers of free SMS via local carriers, it might also prove a difficult task for Facebook to control the American market.