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WhatsApp: A Key Driver of Mobile Messaging Growth

India is WhatsApp’s biggest market

September 12, 2019 (New York, NY) – WhatsApp Status ads are coming, likely sometime in 2020. Though paid ads are just one piece of the puzzle for companies when connecting with customers on WhatsApp, it’s a major change for the chat app, which has so far remained ad-free.

With 340.0 million WhatsApp users in 2019, according to our forecast, India is WhatsApp’s largest market in terms of net users, followed by Brazil and the US. In terms of user penetration among smartphone users, Brazil, Argentina and India are the top three markets, where more than 90% of smartphone users in each country will use WhatsApp this year.

Importantly, our figures differ from Facebook’s, as we factor out fake and duplicate accounts—something WhatsApp has recognized is a problem in India and Brazil. In both countries, the app has been used to spread misinformation ahead of elections.

“India has been able to amass such a high number of WhatsApp users, partly because the platform can be used on some feature phones, like the JioPhone, which is popular there,” eMarketer senior analyst Jasmine Enberg said. “India’s wide user base has also made it a testing ground for new WhatsApp capabilities, including a payment system. The company has been testing the service in India since 2018, and it is expected to launch nationwide this year, pending regulatory approval.”

At 68.1 million, the US is in third place for number of net WhatsApp users, but that equates to just 7.7% of the total number of WhatsApp users in the 18 countries we currently track. That’s because widespread use of regular SMS, Facebook Messenger and iMessage have held back WhatsApp adoption.

This year, for example, we expect the number of US Facebook Messenger users will be close to double that of WhatsApp users—117.6 million vs. 68.1 million, respectively.

However, the two apps are not mutually exclusive. Four of the top 10 countries for WhatsApp user penetration among smartphone users in 2019—Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Italy—are also among the top 10 countries for Messenger user penetration. And in the UK, where we expect 53.5% of smartphone users to use Messenger this year, 60.1% will use WhatsApp.

WhatsApp will be a major contributor to growth in overall mobile messaging app usage worldwide. The total number of messaging app users will grow 12.1% this year to reach 2.52 billion people. That means 87.1% of smartphone users worldwide will use a mobile messaging app at least once per month in 2019.




eMarketer’s forecasts and estimates are based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies. Data is weighted based on methodology and soundness. Each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all its forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of available data means the forecasts reflect the latest business developments, technology trends and economic changes.


About eMarketer
Founded in 1996, eMarketer is the first place to look for research about marketing in a digital world.  eMarketer enables thousands of companies worldwide to understand marketing trends, consumer behavior and get the data needed to succeed in the competitive and fast-changing digital economy.  eMarketer’s flagship product, eMarketer PRO, is home to all of eMarketer’s research, including forecasts, analyst reports, aggregated data from 3,000+ sources, interviews with industry leaders, articles, charts and comparative market data. eMarketer’s free daily newsletters span the US, EMEA and APAC and are read by more than 200,000 readers globally.  In 2016 eMarketer, Inc. was acquired by European media giant Axel Springer S.E.


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Posted on September 12, 2019.