Asian E-Commerce Giant Acquires Viber To Mesh Mobile-Social-Commerce Strategy 2

Viber, the mobile messaging app just acquired by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten for $900 million, allows users to share images, video, audio, and text messages. The service is a direct competitor to other mobile messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, LINE, and WeChat. 

BI Intelligence took a look at the growth rates of these apps to get a sense of how they stack up. Our estimates are based on a compilation of company announcements, media reports, investor presentations, and market data.  

Here’s how Viber stacks up against its competition:

  • Viber has 100 million monthly active users (MAUs), which represents 36% of its total registered users. In 2013, we estimate the app grew its audience by 100%.  (See chart, below.)
  • For comparison, LINE, popular in Asia and Spain, has around 202 million MAUs, but its annual growth last year was an astounding 213%. 
  • So, LINE, which launched around the same time as Viber, is growing about half as fast.
  • WhatsApp grew 212% in 2013. 
  • With 96% user growth last year, China-based WeChat is growing at a similar pace to Viber, but it has roughly three times more monthly active users. 

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So what purpose does a mobile messaging app serve for an e-commerce giant? 

In the press release announcing the acquisition, Rakuten said “Viber’s range of customers” will strengthen the company’s other services. Rakuten is clearly viewing Viber as a way to attract smartphone users to its shopping sites.

Rakuten’s merchants could potentially use Viber’s messaging services to interact with millions of consumers, and announce offers and discounts. 

The $900 million price tag that Rakuten paid for Viber now establishes a benchmark to value other fast-growing messaging apps. 

BII mobile messaging apps

BI Intelligence

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