Mobile messaging apps have been one of the biggest success stories of 2013. The growth of Snapchat, WhatsApp, Kik, Line, WeChat and others has inspired Twitter to refocus on its near-jettisoned private messaging service, and Instagram to introduceÂ âDirectâ messaging.
But what of the future? Whatâs next for messaging apps?
The answer is a long and complicated one (weâll have some lengthier thoughts on that soon) but essentially the potential is pretty endless since messaging apps are platforms, and thus capable of delivering any kind of service that is in demand. Be that gaming, music, marketing, and â for this example âÂ e-commerce.
Weâve already seen Tencentâs WeChat messaging app used to sell Xiaomi smartphones in China â sellingÂ 150,000 units in under 10 minutes, no less â and thereâs further proof of the potential today from Japanese chat app Line.
Line, which has over 300 million registered users worldwide, recently began flash sales in Thailand â one of its strongest overseas markets, where it has 20 million registered users â and the results have been impressive.
While we donât know how many units were picked up: its first high-profile flash sale (with LâOrealâs Maybelline makeup brand) today sold out in 13 minutes.
Similarly, a week previous, a lower-profile flash sale of iPhone phone cases sold out in 25 minutes, as Tech In Asia reports. (Again, though, we have no details on how many units were sold, how many customers tried to buy them, etc.)
How is Line doing this? The company isnâtÂ spamming users, they must opt in by following the flash sales account which provides details. Itâs a brilliant model since,Â as we said about the sticker sales business, if flash sales donât interest you, then you need never know about or come into contact with them in your use of Line.
The company â which makes money selling stickers, providing a platform for opt-in company marketing and via a âconnectedâ games service â is quickly developing into an Internet juggernaut.
Lineâs messaging service grossed $99 million in its last quarter of business, a big increase on the $58 million it recorded just one quarter previously. (For reference, Twitterâs most recent quarter of business brought inÂ $168.6 million.)
At this point Line is still conducting small tests of its e-commerce potential â the efforts in Thailand are coordinated with Ardent Capitalâs aCommerce platform â but clearly there is potential. If you have a channel of active users, thereâs little limit on what features and services can be provided if there is demand.
These models are being tested in Asia but itâs still unclear if they can scale into Western markets right now.
Line is taking a tentative approach to expanding to the US, as it weighs up cultural differences that its business must accommodate. But, with US companies like Snapchat considering âAsianâ style business models, e-commerce has the potential to be a big part of the future of messaging apps worldwide.
Headline image viaÂ Champion studio, others via Line