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Mobile Messengers and VPAs are Providing Threat to Social Media and App Usage

Tim Maytom

The number of consumers using messaging apps and virtual personal assistants (VPAs) is growing as they begin to slowly claw away at the use of social media and apps.

According to a survey by Gartner, of 3,021 people from the US, the UK and China, 71 per cent of people used messaging apps in 2016 – as opposed to 68 per cent the year prior – while VPA usage was up four per cent to 35 per cent. Social media usage was down two per cent from 85 to 83 per cent.

“We are witnessing the beginning of the post-app era based on the evidence that users are starting to use fewer apps actively on their smartphones,” said Jessica Ekholm, research director at Gartner. “At the end of 2016, only 33 percent of survey respondents used six to 10 apps a month, which is down 6.2 percent from a year ago.

“More importantly users want rich and engaging app experiences and are increasingly looking for apps that can offer a multitude of services without users having to leave the app itself. This supports the move toward messaging and VPAs, and ultimately the post-app era.”

The survey found that 72 per cent of mobile messenger users use the apps at least once a day. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp – with 81 per cent and 61 per cent usage respectively – remained the most used messaging apps for people in the US and UK. Meanwhile, WeChat is used by 95 per cent of people in China.

“The conversational interface is not replacing apps, but it’s enhancing the way users access them,” said Ekholm. “We expect messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line or Facebook Messenger to become increasingly engaging and rich as more features are added to them, whether creating more engaging user-generated videos, chatting with customer services, or having more e-commerce possibilities within the app itself.”

On the VPA front, Siri and Google were most used VPAs in the US and UK in 2016. The assistants were used primarily to check weather (70 per cent), find places to visit (44 per cent), and get the latest news (44 per cent). In addition, it was found that conversational interfaces provided by VPAs have the potential to replace some traditional apps – with users shortcutting apps through VPAs.