What WeChat can teach Facebook Messenger

Last week, Facebook announced it would allow businesses to privately communicate with customers through its Messenger app. As the company begins to tweak this service, all eyes should be on China’s all-in-one messaging app, WeChat, as an indicator for where Facebook may take Messenger in the future.

WeChat, like Messenger, is an all-in-one messaging app that sends texts, voice calls, and photos between subscribers. Where it differs is in what it offers in addition to these standard features:

  • WeChat includes a plethora of services similar to apps from iTunes or Google Play called official accounts. These features allow users to do everyday things like hail a taxi, book a doctor’s appointment, or pay a utility bill from the app. This is the model Facebook could be looking towards as it seeks to monetise Messenger.
  • WeChat has 1.1 billion registered accounts and average revenue per user (ARPU) of $US7 per year. By comparison, WhatsApp and Messenger have 800 and 700 million registered accounts respectively, and little ability to monetise their services at the moment.
  • After taking over China’s messaging market, the app is beginning to catch on in India and South East Asia. WeChat already boasts 100 millions users outside of China.

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WeChat provides a proof-of-concept for the all-in-one messaging service. However, unlike WeChat, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that he does not intend to monetise Messenger until it reaches 1 billion monthly active users (MAU). Given that Messenger has attracted about 700 million MAUs, up from 600 million the previous quarter, the company could move to begin monetizing the service by as early as the end of 2015.

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