eMarketer: WhatsApp – a key driver of mobile messaging growth

According to eMarketer’s latest forecast WhatsApp will have 340.0 million users in 2019. It’s largest market is India, 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.

That’s significant because WhatsApp Status ads are coming, rumoured to be 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 and a major opportunity for advertisers.

  • 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 that eMarketer currently tracks. That’s because widespread use of regular SMS, Facebook Messenger and iMessage have held back WhatsApp adoption.
  • 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 eMarketer expects 53.5% of smartphone users to use Facebook 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.

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. 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.

Jasmine Enberg, senior analyst, eMarketer