In today’s digital world, it is difficult to imagine how a business can be successful without a strong online presence. To survive and thrive, businesses must be proactive in their communication with potential customers. Messaging apps have come out as a rising medium in the quest to engage consumers, even more so among ethnic communities.

Socially Engaging Digital Platforms

Online marketing is a vast and constantly evolving industry. What began with corporate websites and email newsletters designed for desktops has now become a complex web of social media communications that are being consumed primarily on mobile devices.

Although websites and email newsletters are still important, social media has since replaced those as the main tool to communicate with potential customers. One segment of social media has undergone an explosive growth: messaging apps.

Messaging App Usage in Asia

Of the top six (6) social media apps worldwide, four (4) are messaging apps: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, QQ and WeChat. Two (2) of them (QQ and WeChat) are tailored to Chinese audiences.

Asia and South Asia are the fastest growing markets for social media and messaging apps. In India, over 94% of all Android devices have WhatsApp installed, with an average of 78% of users accessing it daily. WeChat is accessed by Chinese users an average of 66 minutes a day, while Filipinos, whose favorite messaging app is Facebook Messenger, spend more than four (4) hours a day on social media.

Why are messaging apps so popular in this part of the world? One theory is that the conversation-based format of messaging apps appeals to socially-oriented Eastern cultures. A more pragmatic explanation links this success to the recent dramatic rise in accessibility of mobile devices in these countries, meaning that millions of people who never owned a computer now have their first exposure to the internet through such devices. It is not uncommon in these areas to see an individual expertly handling a messaging app without ever viewing a website or receiving an email.

The Evolution of Messaging Apps

Initially designed for text-based conversations, messaging apps quickly integrated photo and video sharing as well as voice and video call features.

China is a unique breeding ground for innovation, thanks to a mobile-centered culture and its booming population’s will to connect despite the government’s tight control of the Internet.

In the past few years, Google, Facebook and Amazon have all been replaced by home-grown apps. WeChat, a Chinese-based messaging app, serves a growing market of 938 million users, 70 million of which are outside China. A multitude of services can be accessed through the app, such as booking a doctor appointment or a taxi, checking on a delivery or buying groceries. Over 80% of users purchase goods and services on WeChat. Clearly, the future of messaging apps involves much more than texting!

For Marketers: with the vast dependence on these apps as a communication bridge between users in their home countries and their family and friends in the diaspora, understanding certain habits and behaviors of an ethnic group back home may give you clues on ways to engage your target ethnic consumer in Canada.

Zeroing in on the Canadian Market

The wide reach of messaging apps presents a unique opportunity for Canadian businesses to connect with potential customers. Tech giant Alibaba’s Alipay and WeChat have joined forces with Toronto firm OTT Financial to let Chinese tourists, who make up a large proportion of visitors to Toronto and Vancouver, pay for goods and services using their smartphones.

“Through this agreement, Chinese tourists, while visiting Ontario, will be able to pay for products and services directly (…) from their WeChat Pay app on their mobile phones,” said Hon Michael Chan, Ontario’s Minister of International Trade.

For Marketers: make your brand accessible for instant and easy purchase on messaging apps that are relevant to your target ethnic group. Extend your presence using engaging content, conversation, games and ads that resonate with your target group’s latest cultural trends and purchasing habits. Ensure that your messages are authentically translated and adapted into their native language.

Engaging Multicultural Consumers in Canada

Engaging Multicultural Consumers in Canada

Social Media and Immigrant Populations

In an online world without borders, transferring digital habits to a new location is virtually effortless. For immigrants, social media and messaging apps are a vital way to keep in touch with people back home and allow them to make an easier transition by connecting with businesses and members of their local ethnic community. This instant communication channel has given rise to what can be called a “virtual diaspora” where people around the world can connect and form ethnic communities without the need for a physical location.

More so than in the West, mobile apps in developing countries have become an integral part of daily life by performing tasks that would otherwise be impossible to those without access to a computer. Many immigrants are used to their mobile apps performing various functions that go well beyond messaging, and they often expect to find the same level of convenience in their new country. Understanding their needs and expectations presents a unique opportunity to astute marketers.

For Marketers:

– Use nostalgic conversation-based marketing in your target group’s most popular app and focus your messaging on bringing people together;
– Market local culturally relevant events supported by your brand that may bring to Canada a well-known celebrity from India, China, the Philippines or the Middle East;

Connect with them in their native language as well as their local one;

– Focus on common trends that unite the diaspora with their connections from back home.

Using Social Media to Reach Ethnic Communities

As a marketer, how can you use this information to better reach ethnic communities in your area? First, it is crucial to have the right information about your target audience.

Use of messaging apps is highly localized, so high-level statistics might not be helpful when targeting a specific ethnic community. For example, if you wish to communicate with a Korean audience, Facebook Messenger will probably not be effective. Why? Because most Koreans use an app called KakaoTalk.

Whether you are building an app of your own or wish to accept new methods of payment, our experts at Maple Diversity are there for you! By leveraging our solid knowledge of Canada’s ethnic communities, we can help you create a focused and effective campaign based on the specific needs and media habits of your target audience.