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Chatbots on Mobiles will Reach 2 Billion Apps by 2021

Mobile messaging today encompasses both the more traditional forms of messaging and the popular Over The Top (OTT) messaging services from providers such as WhatsApp and WeChat. Communication has never been so rapid or efficient, with new technologies and apps driving demand.

One of the key developments has been the growth of OTT mobile messaging services. Where Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) once saw a good portion of revenue come from SMS, MMS and voice calls, OTT players have offered people a free option -- in the form of messages which can be sent over Wi-Fi or Internet connections, driving demand away from mobile operator networks.

OTT Messaging Market Development

Juniper Research forecasts that OTT messaging applications -- such as WhatsApp and WeChat -- will see adoption grow from 2.3 billion unique users in 2016 to 4.2 billion by 2021, representing a growth of over 12 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

According to the Juniper assessment, the OTT vendors will begin focusing their strategies around the development and provision of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot applications.

The new market study uncovered that mobile service providers must view the introduction of chatbots as an opportunity to expand their in-app offerings, beyond a mere messaging service.


Juniper predicts that OTT vendors will re-position their messaging platforms as customer relationship management tools. By leveraging AI technology, these OTT apps will offer a high value proposition by creating a new level of consumer engagement.

For end-customers, these platforms offer an attractive means of engagement by allowing for greater consumer flexibility and minimizing call wait times.

Juniper analysts believe that chatbot launches on OTT messaging apps will provide a wealth of opportunities for the eRetail and banking sector over the next 5 years. Frequently used services such as balance checking and regular purchases will be some of the early uses.

Outlook for Mobile Chatbot Applications

Juniper forecasts that the number of chatbots on mobile devices will exceed 2 billion globally by 2021, as western players aim to emulate the success of chatbots in China.

Chatbot user numbers in the west will grow at over 190 percent CAGR by 2021, rivalling China. Moreover, established brand names -- such as Amazon and eBay -- will likely play a vital role in building consumer trust in the technology.

"Successful chatbots will increase audience engagement, maintain customer satisfaction and generate repeat business. OTT players must ensure they support these chatbots in their applications, or risk user churn to competitors," said Sam Barker, research analyst at Juniper Research.

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