One App to Rule Them All (Why Messaging Matters)

 

Strategic Brief:

Are you processing credit card transactions on a website or mobile application? Maybe you offer a hosting service, or build business websites. Get ready, the nature of the web business transaction is changing. You should already have a strategy for accepting transactions from players like Apple’s Messages, WeChat and Facebook Messenger. When supporting Instant Messenger transactions, you will need more than purchase buttons. Sourcing AI-bot technology will be a requirement to support the presale and purchase conversations via these messenger applications.

 

U! S! A! Number One!!

We have heard the chant at ball games, olympics, and in convention centers. It seems an irrevocable truth (to Americans). Even knowing that it was not true in every circumstance, information technology is one sector where that leadership has remained for decades.

From the IBM mainframes of the 50’s, through distributed systems, PC’s, the internet, smart phones, and wearables, the US has commonly led the invention and adoption of technology for consumer usage. Competition drove this leadership.

US mobile applications began with potpourri approach.

Currently, the US mobile application economy relies on a flurry of different apps each eyeing a small piece of the pie from our needs and services. Need a car, try Uber or Lyft. Need to park a car, try Luxe. Need food, try Seamless. Need accomodation, try Airbnb. Want to update your friends, try Facebook. Catching up with friends on video, try Skype. Want to buy a cup of coffee, try Starbucks. Looking for a camera, try BandH. Want to listen to music, Spotify. Want to shop online, try Amazon. Want to know if a restaurant is good, try Yelp. Want to pay for something with someone you do not know, try PayPal. (Hmm, just realized I have 190 applications on my smartphone. Need help managing credentials for all these applications, try 1Password.)

This is competition at its best, right? Players competing in the specific field until one comes out as the consumer default. Sometimes though, don’t you get tired of entering credit card details in each, and creating a new login and thinking of a new password?

China disrupts with a unified model.

WeChat is the ultimate ‘platform’ player, offering all the services described above and more embedded within a single application. In China, fixed price items, like a croissant, come with a QR code; just scan it from WeChat and you have paid. One login for shopping, food, travel advice, accomodation, and staying in touch with friends. To give you an idea of scale, by offering a ‘lottery’ approach to gifting friends WeChat Wallet grew 100 million users in a single month (1) – over three million per day – from what started as a messaging application.

US leadership in mobile applications initially defined the market. For WeChat, entering the field later let them observe existing players on the US playing field and gather together the approaches into a single platform for the Chinese market they understood well.

So far, WeChat is limited to a Chinese artifact, with only 10% of active users outside of China. I first learned of the application from Chinese students when a panel judge for an NYU Master course. For now, it does not need to worry about competition from US players in the Chinese market. The diversity of applications needed to match WeChat makes the existing user base a tough mountain for any intruder to climb.

The challenge for WeChat will be to find a footing in other countries against incumbents. If your family is already on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat, what will motivate you to switch to WeChat? (Hint: Consultants with strong in-country connections for regions with distinct cultural and business idioms like the EU, should be pounding on owner Tencent Holdings door).

US mobile application companies now seen responding.

Facebook Messenger introduced the ability to transfer money inside the application. They did not see 100 million new users resulting from their approach, so expect further attempts.

While most coverage of Apple’s WWDC conference highlighted the planned additions of ‘stickers’ into Apple’s Messages application – the feature with subtle impact is the support of API’s. This will permit application developers to connect into Messages for communicaiton, and also allow them to connect into Apple Pay for business transactions. Want to participate in a paid treasure hunt in New York CIty? Imagine registering on Messages and receiving a calendar reminder and map location in reply giving you instant directions to a starting point and an invitation to a Messages group. When you meet up there, the guide shows a QR code for you to scan. Once your payment is approved, you receive a PDF in iBooks that gives you the directions, clues and treasures to find. Everything happening on the Messages platform.

WeChat has a stronger feature set today. It is in front of US leaders like Facebook and Apple. The US does not like to be number two. The next two years are going to be very interesting in global mobile platforms.

  1. Acknowledging http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-09/life-in-the-people-s-republic-of-wechat as the source of the 100 million new user number.