Mobile messaging apps are a craze at least in Asia. There was a time when WhatsApp dominated the market. Things have changed today and WhatsApp is facing the heat from Asian messaging apps like WeChat from China, LINE from Japan, Kakao Talk from South Korea and Hike from India. Besides numbers today most of the Asian messaging apps have focused on quite a few ways of revenue generation. Of all sources, revenue generation from Stickers is being chased by all and even Facebook has concentrated on the same.
What are Stickers?
Stickers are a form of rich emoticons that enhance the experience of these messaging apps. These are illustrations of characters with personality. Sending stickers is a way to share how you’re feeling with your friends. When you tap a sticker, it is automatically sent to your friend. Though some may consider them as a foolish addition but if stickers can express an action then why not use them and let them do the job.
Today these stickers are no more just about expressions but they have become a new source of revenue for these messaging apps. Today all the major players have a business model to make users like few free stickers and make them pay for the rest of the bunch of stickers. A fair deal!
Source of revenue for Asian messaging apps
Line, the mobile messaging app from Japan which has more than 150 million registered users has shown the world that even though it is a free app, its existing business model is making millions. The free messaging app made by Line Corporation revealed that the app has made 5.82 billion yen i.e. $58 million from the first quarter of 2013.
Breaking the revenue down, Line specified that around half of its revenue has come from in-app payments and from the elaborate range of social games people play together on Line. Another 30% of its revenue that is approximately $17M is from paid Stickers.
Seeing this, other players in the market have also joined the bandwagon. The free Indian messaging app from Bharti SoftBank, Hike, which has more than five million users has recently announced that it has added some exciting features such as a set of new Stickers. The app has introduced a set of new expressive and fun stickers which include a pack full of Expressions, a predicted Bollywood pack, and more.
Though, Kavin Bharti Mittal, Head of Product and Strategy, Bharti SoftBank has expressed he has no intentions to make money out of Stickers right now, even if they plan to do so, that would take some time to happen. In other words the app – which is focusing on the 10 million download mark – is not completely ruling out Stickers.
Facebook joins the party too
And the biggest name to join the bandwagon recently is Facebook. The move is no surprise for me since Facebook has also hired graphic artists to draw emoticons and graphics for Messenger that emulate features of the wildly popular Asian apps like LINE.
According to Techcrunch, Facebook just launched its first branded sticker pack for messaging — a collection based on the new Universal film Despicable Me 2. Right now Facebook has made all 15 or so downloadable sticker packs freely available from a store inside the smiley button in Facebook and Messenger for iOS and Android. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg’s dog Beast also finds a place in the existing sticker pack.
Additional sources of revenue for the messaging apps
It is quite interesting to see how expressions are bringing revenues for companies. In addition to the Stickers, Asian messaging apps have found interesting ways of making revenue such as in-app payments, social games, etc.
Recently we saw LINE is targeting a new source of revenue with “LINE Free Coins”. The new initiative will allow users to use the virtual currency to download selected apps. Right now the program is available only with the three LINE-integrated apps but LINE has indicated that more third-party apps selected and reviewed by the LINE team will be available in future for the ‘Line Free Coins’ program.
WeChat, the Chinese mobile messaging app from Tencent revealed two exciting sources of income. It integrated with China Merchants Bank (CMB) to provide financial features to the customers. It is being said that WeChat has provided customized API support for CMB to carry out features like transfer of data. The talked about partnership will enable interesting features to credit card holders where all the information binds to their respective WeChat account. This feature now allows customers to check their bills, credits, limits or transaction records.
Besides this the messaging app which has more than 300 million users globally and out of which 50 million are from outside China has also enabled online transactions for selected merchants by linking a payment service. Corporate names like McDonalds is one of the first companies to open an online channel via WeChat. The fast food chain has decided to avail offers for its followers in China.
Going further Tencent plans to introduce mobile social games on WeChat and introduce micro-payments for services like taxis, among other measures to make money off the application. A thought that was expressed by the company head Pony Ma, while speaking at the sidelines of this year’s session of the National People’s Congress.
Revenue generation has been the focus of Asian messaging apps but it hasn’t been at the cost of user experience on the free messaging apps. With the existing sources of revenue, Stickers have been one of the dominant ones. It can’t be questioned any more when everyone from LINE to Path to Facebook is implementing it with an eye on revenues.
Image courtesy: TNW