Since the advent of social media and the ubiquitous adoption of smartphones, communication has become streamlined and available to consumers and businesses. Where SMS was once the primary means of connection, now, messaging apps take center stage, providing a direct avenue of communication between businesses, employees and other stakeholders.
In Middle East and Africa, WhatsApp is one of the leading examples of messaging technology, blending voice, video and group chats and calls to create an all-in-one channel. As the messaging app has grown, it has become one of the most trusted global brands, with users in Egypt ranking it third–just behind Facebook and Google.
User Adoption in the Middle East
Currently, there are more than 115M WhatsApp subscribers in just 5 middle east countries. In Saudi Arabia, one of the most populous middle eastern countries, adoption rates reached 73%. Across the MENA region, adoption rates are even higher at 77%. In developing countries, the benefits of WhatsApp make it a convenient and inexpensive way to connect with other users. SMS messaging may carry fees, but WhatsApp is free for consumers. Since it is also independent of phone platform, WhatsApp makes it easy to connect and stay in touch with friends and relatives across national boundaries.
Businesses Rolling out WhatsApp Messaging
Given the massive global reach of WhatsApp messaging, businesses have quickly adopted the service and use it to reach a variety of customers and provide additional services. Some use cases include:
TravelStart, a leading travel agency in the MENA region, uses WhatsApp to streamline price comparison on airline tickets, hotel accommodations, car rentals and other travel needs. It also enables rapid response times to customer inquiries, turning a two-day wait into a conversation with a potential customers in just moments.
The Saudi Investment Bank, SAIB, was the first bank in the country to integrate WhatsApp into their customer service offerings. Customers trying to find a local branch or ask about services don't need to wait on hold or for a response to an email. Instead, they can initiate a chat directly with bank employees.
Duniper, a fruit and vegetable delivery box service in Qatar, uses WhatsApp to streamline the ordering process. Since the service is offered in English, which may not be the customer's native language, the ability to send pictures with an order is invaluable. A picture doesn't allow for miscommunications when someone can't remember the local name of a particular fruit.
Expected Growth and Adoption for WhatsApp
With adoption already at near 100% of smartphone users in countries like Qatar, WhatsApp growth is likely to be linked closely to smartphone adoption. With 1.5 billion global users, WhatsApp is already in use by 1 out of 5 people on the planet. For example, smartphone adoption in the United Arab Emirates has reached 66%. Of those users, 82% use WhatsApp, which is equal to the number that use Facebook and YouTube. As more people start using smartphones, the number of WhatsApp users will likely grow at a similar rate.
The Move to Messaging and Away from Social Media
While Facebook is still the world leader in the number of active monthly users at 2.7B, WhatsApp is quickly growing to meet that number, and when combined with other messaging apps like WeChat, Facebook Messenger and QQ Mobile, Facebook quickly takes a back seat. The combined users for these four messaging apps top 4.84B per month. Consumers have already made the switch to messaging apps. Now, it's up to businesses to follow, approaching consumers through the avenues they prefer to use and where they spend their time.
CEQUENS Can Help
We're a leading Communication Platform as a Service ( CPaaS ) provider in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region that aims to bridge communication gaps in a communication-driven world.
Powered by innovation and guided by a Cloud-First and Mobile-First approach, we provide omnichannel communication APIs that enable enterprises and developers to communicate with their customer base worldwide.
As an Endeavor Entrepreneur and GSMA Associate Member and ISO-Certified company, Cequens plays a pivotal role in transforming communication in the region.
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