Since the release of WhatsApp Business App and later WhatsApp Business API, the messenger app that kept to itself turned into one of the top marketing channels on the rise. Since marketers don’t throw effort and money around based on hunches, accurate WhatsApp statistics became highly sought after.
Everyone wanted to know whether WhatsApp truly was the best way to interact with customers.
I, too, dived down that rabbit hole.
Very quickly, I realized that it was not going to be easy.
Top ranking articles on Google claiming to have the latest 2020 stats and reports turned out to be - for the most part - empty promises. Some stats turned out to be as old as 2012, others lacked reliable sources 🤷♀️😭!
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So, our team decided to roll up our sleeves and dig deep into the abyss of information. In fact, we ventured way beyond the horizon that is the 1st search page of Google.
It wasn’t easy but we managed to come up with a compilation of relevant mobile and WhatsApp statistics that give you a clear idea where WhatsApp marketing is headed.
All the data included on our compilation was published in 2018 or later.WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger… well, messenger marketing in general moves too fast for older stats to be still relevant today.
So, let’s have a look if it’s at all worth it to direct your attention beyond traditional social media to instant messaging.
Smartphone Adoption & Quality of Connections
Only smartphone users can enjoy the benefits of messaging apps. So, before focusing on WhatsApp Messenger specifically, let’s take a look at the global overview of mobile internet/data usage and smartphone adoption.
The Mobile Economy 2019 report predicts that smartphone adoption will grow in all regions of the world. Worldwide, this population penetration will grow from 60% in 2018 to 79% in 2025.
Examining the prediction region by region, the adoption will be much more significant in developing economies since in the territories such as Europe and North America smartphones are already used by the majority of the population.
Furthermore, according to to the same report, by 2025, four out of five mobile connections will be smartphones.
And, as if that wasn’t convincing enough, the report predicts that the usage of mobile data will grow five times by 2024.
Mobile Usage Today
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The present situation is also looking pretty good.
According to GlobalWebIndex 2018 survey of internet users, the time we spent using the internet on mobile virtually doubled since 2014.
Furthermore, the time we spend on mobile using the internet mentioned above accounts for almost half of total internet time spent online!The trend has a growing tendency, so, in the coming years, we might see mobile internet time overtake the long-reining desktop.
Another useful data to consider is the overall hours (not just internet hours) which consumers spent on mobile in 2018.
The graph below shows the situation across different countries and economies.
Indonesia & Thailand lead with a 4-5-hour average and most mature markets range between 2-3 hours a day.
All in all, it’s undeniable that smartphones are becoming more and more widespread and indispensable to our daily experience.
Hence, as the smartphone adoptions grow and mobile data coverage improves, messenger apps like WhatsApp chat are bound to attract a wider and wider audience. Slowly but surely they are cementing their status as the most direct way to contact consumers.
Social & Communication Apps: Overview of Downloads & Active Users
A significant part of the hours we spend on mobile belongs to social and communication apps.
When App Annie looked at the overall time populations dedicate to these apps by country over two year period, it found the time is growing significantly both in emerging and mature economies.
By the way… Don’t get sidetracked by the massive difference in overall hours. India, China, and the USA have significantly larger populations hence their hours are bound to be higher. If the people in France (population 66.99 million) spent almost 120 billion hours on social and communication apps like India (1.339 billion) they would have a serious problem 😂.So, how is WhatsApp doing in the mishmash of social and messenger apps available on the market today?
The latest stats suggest the app is a leader in many countries. Moreover, it's showing no signs of slowing down its growth.
When ranked by app downloads on a global scale, Facebook Messenger seems to have an upper hand over WhatsApp:
However, WhatsApp wins when it comes to the global number of active users.
The higher number of downloads for Facebook Messenger can stem from the fact that most people who download the Facebook app also download the messenger app. Yet, it doesn't mean they use it as their default messaging app.
Indeed, when it comes to active user accounts, WhatsApp doesn't have competitors among the messenger apps.
According to the data collected in December 2018, WhatsApp with its 1.5 billion users dominated over its direct competitors, slowly catching up with the social platform industry leaders YouTube and Facebook.
If you don't believe WhatsApp has a shot at competing with YouTube or Facebook, check the active user data from April 2019:
Apps Ranking by Session Time: How is WhatsApp Doing?
According to App Annie, WhatsApp Messenger takes the lead in multiple countries even when comparing all social and communication apps by the length of average monthly sessions per user.
WhatsApp usage dominates in Brazil, Canada, India, the UK, and Germany:
To put WhatsApp success into an even broader perspective, WeAreSocial put together a comprehensive geographic view of app dominance per country.
Even if WhatsApp is not a leader on every single market, globally, it beats any other app in terms of total session time (App Annie 2018).
In fact, towards the end of 2018, WhatsApp - ever so slightly - surpassed Facebook app as the most popular app of the Facebook company. It beat Facebook in the number of monthly active users - even if just for a moment:
WhatsApp Statistics: Growth & Performance
When you start to look at stand-alone WhatsApp statistics things really get tricky and data manipulation even more probable.
Not that the data would be wrong. However, many articles misrepresent them by not specifying the test sample specification. E.g., are they talking about the percentage of global users, users from selected countries, users from specific countries… percentage of the whole population or percentage of smartphone users of a specific population?
You get what I mean…So, here are the few WhatsApp stats which origins we were able to verify.
I know we said no stats older than 2017, however, it’s interesting to see the growth of WhatsApp user base over time and its escalation after being acquired by Facebook in October 2014.
At F8 developer conference in San Jose in 2018, Facebook revealed that users make more than 2 billion minutes of voice calls and video calls on WhatsApp every day. As if that wasn’t impressive in itself, WhatsApp users also send 65 billion messages daily.
This next statistic shows WhatsApp penetration of population in leading online markets worldwide in 2017. Saudi Arabia wins first place with 73% of its population using WhatsApp messages.
The few things you need to keep in mind here is that:
- the statistic shows selected markets;
- smartphone adoption varies greatly among the countries
- there are huge differences in population size
- it’s 2 years old so things might have changed (slightly or significantly)
App Annie told TNW that the top market as per the number of WhatsApp active users (not a percentage of population) belonged to India followed by Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and Russia. This significant penetration and growth in the user base occurred and continues to occur despite the strong backlash in countries like Brazil and India over the problem of enabling the spread of fake news.
Likewise, The United States is not at all mentioned in the above status report from 2017.
Perhaps that is because, in 2017, WhatsApp penetration in the US was not worth mentioning… who knows?
However, in 2019, its US users base reached 68.1 million which accounts for 20.8% of the current population.
Seeing the data above and then coming across the stats from eMarketer from 2018 shown below, you might feel confused. Don’t let the first impression fool you!
This specific eMarketer study looked at these five countries specifically and calculated WhatsApp penetration from the number of smartphone users, not the whole populations of the countries involved. In case you come across data focusing on smartphone users only, help you strategy by combining with the general stats on mobile use.
In this case, we saw earlier that smartphone adoption in Europe is 72%. This gives you a much better overview and understanding of the potential reach of WhatsApp.
WhatsApp: More than a Messaging App
The popularity of WhatsApp, as well as the company’s direction, started to turn the service into something more than a messaging app.
The introduction of WhatsApp status in 2017 (an encrypted copy of SnapChat Stories) encouraged users to use the app to share their experiences with their contacts without the need to message.
Since its release, WhatsApp Status has been adopted by 500 million WhatsApp users.
The fact that WhatsApp is becoming more than just a messaging app is also perpetuated by the fact that in some markets, people start to use it as a source of news:
The diversification of WhatsApp is bound to continue.
With the 2018 rollout of WhatsApp Business allowing the creation of business profiles and WhatsApp Business API for automation WhatsApp opened itself to digital marketing. Facebook already published a number of business success stories of companies that used the app for customer service or WhatsApp lead generation.
- Smartphone adoption, as well as availability and quality of mobile data, will continue growing in the coming years
- WhatsApp will continue to grow its user base while redefining itself to be more than a communication app
- Messaging apps marketing is likely to become the next big thing in social media advertising
- WhatsApp Statistics are becoming more and more relevant to businesses but the quality and clarity of their presentation are lagging behind. Always verify the source!
- WhatsApp usage is specific to countries and even region within the countries. Always check whether or not the global data accurately reflects your user base.
- The Mobile Economy 2019 by the GSM Association
- The State of Mobile 2019 by App Annie
- Global Digital Report 2019 by WeAreSocial
- Session Data by AppTopia 2018
- Number of monthly active WhatsApp users worldwide from April 2013 to December 2017 by Statista 2019
- Share of population in selected countries who are active WhatsApp users as of 3rd quarter 2017 by Statista 2019
- Number of WhatsApp users in the United States from 2019 to 2023 by Statista 2019
- Top 5 Countries, Ranked by WhatsApp User Penetration by eMarketer 2019
- Number of daily active WhatsApp Status users from 1st quarter 2017 to 1st quarter 2019 by Statista 2019
- Digital News Report 2018 by Reuters Institute
- Number of WhatsApp Messages per Day by Statista 2018