Background and challenges:

From pixels to pings

With the concept of instant messaging (IM) pre-dating the Vietnam war in the 60’s, there have been many iteration of this form of technology throughout the years. It wasn’t until the early 90s when ‘Instant Messaging’ became a common term when not only MIT computer science master's, but any computer literate person, could interact with the technology.

Since then, technology re-invented and evolved the instant messaging experience 10 fold and has now made it a part of our everyday life. Even the likes of Google’s Gchat and Skype have now become a common way to communicate in both personal as well as professional environments.

With the evolution of instant messenger, many new platforms have joined the playing field having learned from their predecessors and formed more intuitive and user friendly platforms making both the consumer and business markets quite crowded with app options to explore.

Message in a bottle

Viber mobile messaging has been out in the global marketplace for over four years, and though this is considered quite established in this market they still have yet to carve out a significant portion of the market share - particularly the US. (source: Statista, 2015 1 & 2). You can see from the charts below, Viber appears with 8% of global internet users though it doesn’t even appear on the top 5 messenger apps in the US.

Active usage reach of the most popular mobile messaging apps worldwide as of 4th quarter 2015

Active usage reach of the most popular mobile messaging apps worldwide as of 4th quarter 2015

Daily usage reach of the most popular mobile messaging apps in the United States as of July 2015

Daily usage reach of the most popular mobile messaging apps in the United States as of July 2015

It’s not surprising with major players in the market such as Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp and Skype dominating the playing field that Viber have their work cut out for them. And with the combined forces of Facebook and WhatsApp since the buyout in 2012, is safe to say Facebook effectively owns 70% of the global market share (source: Wired, 2013). Quite the force be to reckoned with, no doubt.

The problem with crystal balls

With the mobile messaging market only getting more crowded with new apps, and the ever challenging reality that generating revenue from these apps is ongoing, it’s no wonder that the analysts of the world are predicting that the global business of messaging is set to shrink over the next few years, from $113.5 billion in 2014 to $112.9 billion in 2019, according to Juniper Research, a market-research firm based in Basingstoke, England. (Forbes, 2015). Trends are already showing that the overall mobile messaging has seen slower growth in the US when compared to key global markets (Singapore, India and China) - surpass the US by +26 points (source: Tyntech, 2013) Just 23% of US smartphone users polled said they used mobile IM services, which was also far lower than the shares in the developing countries surveyed (source: eMarketer, 2014)

Not enough hours in the day

Although Viber doesn’t have a problem acquiring new users, they have a huge problem retaining and maintaining active users. With time being the finite factor in a world that is launching almost 50 new apps a day on iTunes (source: Statista, 2014), engagement and retention is bound to level off as there are only so many hours in a day. Nielsen notes that the time spent on the top 50 apps is actually down compared to last year: the top 50 apps today get 58 percent of our app time, compared to 74 percent in 2011. (source: TechCrunch, 2012)

So how does Viber gain a formidable stake in the US instant messaging market and establish a sturdy revenue stream when trends show the markets are slowing compared the ROW and for the most part interest in downloading these apps is relatively low?