BANGALORE: Almost all smartphone owners in India who use messaging apps use them frequently every day and are increasingly likely to make in-app purchases, new research has said.

InMobi, the mobile advertising platform, surveyed 455 smartphone users in India and found that 95% of messaging app users accessed these multiple times in a day and that messaging apps were the preferred method of communication, bypassing even social networks and voice calls.

Staying in touch with friends was the main reason for downloading mobile messaging apps, cited by 44%, just ahead of sharing photos and videos, a factor for 39%. Other factors included staying in touch with family (30%), group messaging (21%) and cost (18%).

Nor were they restricting themselves to just one messaging app. "A healthy average of three messaging apps per user indicates that messaging platforms are evolving into audience platforms that can be leveraged for entertainment and commerce," said Jayesh Easwaramony, Vice President & General Manager, APAC, Middle East and Africa, InMobi.

Unsurprisingly, young mobile users in the 18 to 24 age group were leading the charge on using messaging apps, but an older generation of 35-44 year olds was also taking to these apps, driven by their ease of use.

The survey further revealed that around 20% of respondents had already made an in-app purchase when using a mobile messaging/chat application, while a similar proportion (18%) were likely to consider doing so.

"With 38% of users likely to make a purchase on these platforms as well as a higher smartphone penetration, there will be an increase in offerings to enrich consumer experience," said Easwaramony.

"We also see advertisers using these platforms for emotional engagement as well as experimenting with launching services that they have already done in their home markets like Japan and China," he added.

That is exactly the approach Viber is taking. The messaging app was acquired by Japanese internet giant Rakuten earlier this year and is growing fast in India. CEO Talmon Marco told the Times of India that stickers and games were the ways in which the app was being monetised, but "in future, we'll do things which are related to Rakuten's business, like e-commerce, travel, and finance".

InMobi found that current in-app purchases were usually add-ons like emoticons, games, stickers and virtual currency, with typical prices points between Rs 71 – 129 (US$ 1-2).

Data sourced from BusinessWire, Times of India; additional content by Warc staff