The number of instant messaging users will reach 4.3 billion in 2020, rising from 3.9 billion in 2019. This is a growth of 9 per cent year-on-year, largely driven by an increased need for remote communication during the COVID-19 crisis, according to A new study from Juniper Research.

The new research, Mobile Messaging: Operator Strategies & Vendor Opportunities 2020-2024, identified integrated payment services in instant messaging apps as key to continuing this growth beyond the end of the pandemic.

It forecast that instant messaging app developers will partner with payment gateways to offer payment capabilities in apps and increase the overall value proposition.

The research anticipated that partnerships with retailers will be crucial to growing an instant messaging payments ecosystem. The addition of payment capabilities in the app will enable retailers to extend their omnichannel strategies into the messaging space.

The research forecast that retailers will capitalise on the established user base of instant messaging applications, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat, as an additional retail channel. Retailers will then provide services beyond simple messaging alerts, such as payment authentication and processing.

The report forecast that the number of RCS-enabled smartphones will grow by 45 per cent from 2019 to 2020, with over 740 million smartphones using RCS services by the end of 2020. Despite this growth, however, it warned that RCS-enabled smartphones would only be 16 per cent of smartphones globally in 2020.

RCS is a next-generation mobile messaging standard supported by mobile network operators that supports media-rich content and payment services.

Given that the research estimated that 84 per cent of smartphones will use mobile instant messaging applications in 2020, it argued that stakeholders cannot wait for RCS to reach high saturation levels to engage with payments.

The research, therefore, recommended that vendors should leverage this massive addressable market as an immediate priority.

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