In the world of mobile messaging, Kik Messenger doesn’t tend to grab many of the headlines – with rivals like Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and WhatsApp generating the most column inches.
One reason for this is that Kik’s audience is pretty small – GWI’s data shows that it doesn’t dominate in any country in the way that WeChat rules in China or LINE is the default choice in Japan, for example. In fact, its usage figures in most countries barely trouble the 5% mark. Nor has it been subject to recent, high-profile investments in the same way as services like Snapchat.
So, chances are that you haven’t heard too much about what Kik has been doing recently – despite its recent developments being pretty noteworthy. While Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and WeChat have all been conspicuously turning themselves into platforms rather than simple messaging apps, Kik has been doing the same in a much quieter – but very interesting – way. Those using Kik now have access to a full web browser inside the app, making it much easier for them to multi-task as they chat to friends (it’s not actually a new feature for Kik, but it’s one that’s just been much improved). For mobile chatters, that removes the need to open a new app as you wait for a friend to reply; essentially, you can multi-task from inside the same app. It’s second-screening without, well, the second screen.
The reason this matters is because – as social networking behaviors continue to evolve and certain activities migrate away from “traditional” platforms like Facebook – messaging apps are currently locked in a race to become the default places where we share content or make payments. Kik’s improved functionality makes it much easier to interact with friends in ways which are beyond simple messaging – whether that be sharing content or transferring cash. So far, rival services have mostly pinned their flag on the mast of one of these two routes; potentially, Kik is priming itself for both.
Certainly, Kik faces a significant challenge in terms of grabbing attention – and users – from the other, higher-profile apps. But we know that digital consumers are less loyal to messaging apps than they are to social networks proper. In short, it’s easier to lure people away from one chat app to another than it is to get them to switch social networks (one of the reasons why names like Ello and Google+ have struggled). Here, demonstrate that there are clear benefits to switching apps and the battle is half won.
All this means that 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty fascinating year in the world of messaging, as the established players and still more new entrants to the field battle to become the premier app. One thing is absolutely certain here, though: by the end of this year, we’ll all be doing a lot more on our favorite messaging app than we are right now.