Technology with attitude

Viber Plans to Use College Students as a Channel into the U.S. Market

1

Viber is a free texting and calling app that homes more than 664 million global users, yet a small part of this user base is based in the U.S.

The company has now launched a new advertising campaign aimed at spreading its wings across the entirety of America, with students being the main target of facilitating the app’s entry plan.

The coming weeks might seem a little different for Boston and New York subway commuters thanks to the fact that a part of Viber’s advertising campaign will see the entire station covered in the colors of this app. Viber lags behind other apps when it comes to usage in the U.S., but the company is now ready to make its moves into the western market.

College students are a key market in the U.S.

Viber has launched a new ad campaign dubbed “Chat” and with this campaign, the Rakuten-owned application is targeting a major American market in the shape of college students. As mentioned earlier, users of Manhattan’s West 4th Street subway station as well as Harvard and Boston Park Street stations located on the Boston T will see a new Viber ad in the coming few weeks.

The campaign also includes collaborations with Spotify, Paper magazine and The Fader. The company is also believed to be cooking a new functionality within the app with the target being America, but this feature will wait until 2016.

Viber has identified its American user base to be aged between 18 and 24, which mostly consists of college students. Other than offering free texting and calling services, Viber will allow American users to talk to bloggers, exchange stickers as well as play games. The group chat capabilities of the chat app will be at the center of things as these offer a platform on which brands and names can interact with users at any given moment.

Stiffer competition

Viber is already facing huge competition from apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Kik and Facebook Messenger; all of which are quite favorites in the U.S., especially the latter. Facebook Messenger is the most used chat app in the country, while WhatsApp is the most used in the world. Nonetheless, Facebook’s acquisition of the app for a fee of $19 billion meant that the service will find its way deep into the U.S.

There is even stiffer competition coming from other messaging apps when it comes to the U.S. audience. These are both from Asia. LINE and WeChat are their names and in the recent past, these two have also showed their intentions of breaking into the U.S. market. Earlier this year, WeChat’s owners Tencent shelled out $50 million worth of investment cash in a bid to transform Canadian app Kik Messenger into “the WeChat of the West”.

Why WeChat of the West? Because WeChat has conquered China, offering the users with both free messaging and calling services as well as lots of e-commerce services. The latter is a huge source of income for this Chinese-based application, which is why Kik is after becoming the go-to app when it comes to such services.

There is no doubt that Viber and its competitors somehow are after different audiences. Nonetheless, Viber will still have to find out what areas pose as weaknesses to Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and offer American users with an appealing solution to these weaknesses.

Just like other messaging apps trying to break into the U.S. market, Viber faces the issue of less demand. In the U.S., wireless carriers already offer amazing packages for messaging, something that renders the messaging apps quite insignificant. Furthermore, the VoIP offering on Viber is less of a concern for U.S. users, just as it has turned out to be on Skype.

What Viber is looking for is to position itself as a student-friendly communications app that is more open than Snapchat and has fewer parents than Facebook.