Lifestyle Content Channel Is First of Many New Services Coming Soon to Middle East

Following on from the launch of our Games channel in December,  we are now launching our first content channel for Middle Eastern BBM users: Layalina. The name translates as “our nights,” and is a portal primarily for women, offering lifestyle, fashion and celebrity content tailored to Middle Eastern tastes. This is the first of several new BBM content channels we’ll be launching in the coming weeks as part of our partnership with entertainment and lifestyle content publisher 7awi.

A Region Embracing TechnologyME Graph

The Middle East continues to be one of our strongest regions worldwide in terms of numbers of active BBM users, with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Kuwait being the busiest markets. With so many active users, we’re working hard to bring more value to our Middle Eastern customers with some exciting new services and content.

The Middle East is a digitally-savvy place. Almost half of the respondents from a study we recently conducted of BBM users in the region said they “cannot live without their mobile phones.” Over half of those surveyed (from 52% to 66%, depending on the country) have two mobile phones. Between 5-10% have three or four. The most popular devices are iPhones, followed by Samsung and BlackBerry models. In addition, the majority of BBM users employ multiple messaging platforms to chat with the same people. In fact, they’re likely to have 3-5 messaging apps on their phones.

When it comes to messaging, Middle Easterners especially like their BBM for its privacy and security features. Close to half of respondents mentioned the fact that BBM is secure or the Private Pin as one of the primary reasons they use BBM regularly.

7awi Lifestyle ContentScreenshot_20170314-003558

Along with the rest of the world, our Middle Eastern customers are making a transition in how they get their news and other content, from print and TV to digital and mobile. That’s why we’re partnering with 7awi (pronounced “hawi”).

Today, 7awi offers an integrated digital content platform with rich local, regional and global content. Our first launch is Layalina. In the weeks that follow, we’ll continue to add more portals, including those for men, luxury goods, celebrity news, and Waseet—7awi’s portal for classifieds, where people can post free ads to buy and sell goods and services.

More Services Coming Soon

We’re looking at news aggregators; a hotel comparison and booking solution; a taxi service; restaurant location, reservation and ordering and delivery services; online retailers; airtime top-up options; and music services that would enable you to stream music through BBM.

As you can see, we have a lot of ideas for how to make BBM even better—but if you have more ideas, please let us know in the comments.

If you’re in the Middle East, be sure to check out Layalina in the Lifestyle section of your Discover menu today—and keep an eye out for the additional channels that will appear there in the coming weeks.

Chat, Games, and News Drive Mobile Usage in Asia-Pacific, So We’re Bringing News and Games to Chat

APAC-BBM-games_square

I recently attended a Google event where a presenter shared some research about the number of minutes per day that the average person in the Asia-Pacific region spends on his or her phone. (I was going to share a photo I took of the slide, but just noticed the bottom says “confidential & proprietary,” so you’ll have to take my word for it.)

The surprise and not-surprise of the data was this: Indonesians spend the most time by far on all three categories measured: chat, games, and news. Chat was the biggest (well over two hours a day), closely followed by games (also over two hours). The survey included Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan.

The stats were from the Google-TNS APAC Mobile Usage Study, 2015. You can read more about that here (though the data I mention above isn’t included in this article). But it’s still worth a look. Other results to note: even though Indonesia has a lower smartphone penetration than its neighboring countries, and Indonesians install fewer apps, the smartphone is more important to their daily lives. (This link is to another Google blog covering the same study.) They use it more, and they use it first over other devices like PCs and tablets.

More News and Games in BBM

We don’t mind that Indonesians may have fewer apps on their phones, because BBM is their #1. It’s the most installed and the most commonly used app across all mobile platforms.

The archipelago is by far our biggest BBM market, with over 60 million monthly active users, so we’ve known for a long time that Indonesians are active mobile users, especially when it comes to chat. But seeing this data is a great confirmation of our ongoing strategy to bring even more content to the country’s favorite app.

We’re working to bring them more of what they love. We’ve partnered with a number of content players, and will help them connect with their customers through Channels, including the new channel from Liputan6.com (C002EC21B), which now has over 6 million subscribers.

APAC-BBM-games-man_square

We’ve also recently launched BBM Life, for which we’ve partnered with a number of local bloggers that provide daily content about lifestyle, food, travel, “top” lists (example: Top Five Things to Do in Indonesia), and celebrity news. The channel has already hit over 600,000 subscribers in Indonesia.

And in a particularly exciting development, we just announced our strategic partnership with Emtek, Indonesia’s leading media content company. This alliance will integrate BBM’s social, chat, commerce, and content capabilities with Emtek’s substantial portfolio of media and assets that include broadcast television, web properties, content production, and artists. This means customers will get more:

  • Content: music and video streaming, games, sports and news channels, celebrity blogs, and more
  • Commerce: shopping, gifting, and coupons/vouchers
  • Online to offline commerce: booking movies, travel, and health services, as well as job postings
  • Finance: payment processing, money transfer, mobile phone recharge, and utilities billing

A Proven Business Model

Of course, we’ll continue to update BBM to make it an even more useful tool for your daily life, with cross-platform video chat, more privacy and security features, more convenience, and more fun. And we’ll also continue to add extras to enhance your experience.

We’re already piloting a number of BBM games in several regions via the BBM Shop (along with stickers, airtime top-up and transfer, streaming music, and more). And our customers love it, visiting the Shop over a billion times a month. Soon, all of these new additions will become part of a set of services within BBM that’ll also include others, like coupons/vouchers, commerce, and news. We’re bulking up our virtual goods offering because we’ve had success with it – and we’re not the only ones.

Other popular messaging apps in Asia have incorporated games and news and are succeeding in their home markets. But two facts remain in our favor: BBM is #1 in Indonesia, and Indonesians spend more time on their phones than anyone else in the Asia-Pacific region. Sounds like an opportunity to me.

A recent forecast predicts that in 2016, mobile games will generate more revenue than PC and console games for the first time. So it seems that the people have spoken: they want to take their games with them. Multi-player games pair really well with chat because they offer another fun way to keep in touch with friends and family.

These are the kinds of things that are keeping us busy now and that we’ll be rolling out in the coming months. Keep an eye out here for announcements.

Six Ways Indonesia’s Cutting-Edge Adoption of Tech and Mobile May Surprise You

Indonesia, BBM, selfie

BBM and BlackBerry are both big in Indonesia. That’s no secret. Since I live in Singapore and work for BlackBerry, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the island nation regularly in the last couple of years. I also travel to the U.S. and Canada frequently, and I’m often surprised that people in the tech industry there (outside BlackBerry, of course), don’t really have Indonesia on their radar for digital. That’s crazy. It absolutely should be.

So, I thought I’d shine some light on this tremendous market, and talk about why BBM is so excited to be a part of it as the market continues to mature.

Indonesia is already well established when it comes to e-commerce (at $12 billion in 2014, the market is estimated to rise to $25 billion this year). Even so, it’s poised for explosive growth. That’s due in part to its young, social and tech-savvy population, but also its growing middle class and ever-increasing internet connectivity.

1. Indonesians are many, highly social and connected

Home to 255 to 260 million people (depending on who you ask), Indonesia is the fourth-most populous country on Earth (after China, India and the U.S.). Indonesians are highly social, ranking fourth in the world for Facebook usage, and fifth for Twitter. (Jakarta has recently been the #1 tweet-producing city.) It’s a young country, with at least 50% of its population under the age of 30. It’s also a tech-savvy market, with 93 million internet users and 52 million smartphone users.

Most important, Indonesia is a mobile-first market, with 93% of people accessing the internet via smartphone. Indonesians have really taken to the technology, and in addition to being active on chat, they’re also enthusiastic mobile gamers and mobile shoppers.

What’s more, we’re seeing double-digit growth in most of these numbers year-over-year. Mobile is already big. It’s getting bigger. And fast.

2. Growing spending power increases business opportunities

One of the reasons for the growth is economic. Home to a consumer-based economy, Indonesia has a growing middle class, currently at about 88 million, and projected to reach 141 million by 2020.

The driver? Lower labor costs than China and other countries. That’s attracting manufacturing jobs – some have dubbed it part of a New China with regard to manufacturing opportunity. I expect to see the same kinds of growth in Indonesian consumer culture and spending as we’ve seen in China in the last couple of decades.

emme23. Increasing internet availability creates connections

The archipelago is currently the world’s fourth-largest mobile market, and is actively improving its infrastructure to support technology and mobile growth. The major mobile operators have been investing heavily in building out the country’s LTE networks in the last couple of years.

And just like in the rest of the world, the costs of devices and data plans are coming down, making smartphones and all the apps and services they bring more affordable and more accessible than ever before.

4. Ripe for innovation

Clearly, there is no shortage of opportunity here. At the same time, there are “archaic regulations,” according to this Wall Street Journal blog post, that can make it a challenging place to do business.

But that, combined with Indonesia’s famously poor infrastructure, can actually be a boon for mobile commerce, leading to innovative local solutions.

Why? Because necessity is the mother of invention. Because the internet, plus mobile devices and apps, can fill in for that missing infrastructure. Take “Emmi” (pictured here). A college student in Jakarta, she saw an opportunity to use mobile tools, her own two feet, design sense and business savvy to build a thriving shoe-sales business. Her business exists, in a way, because of poor infrastructure. It’s hard for students to get around town to get what they need, so Emmi brings what they need to them. The same business model might not work in another area. But for the students in her city, it’s the perfect solution. Brilliant. And she’s just one of the hundreds of millions of Indonesians with ideas, know-how, willpower and a growing access to technology.

5. Big-name firms are investing

Others see the opportunity too, because even with the regulations and infrastructure challenges, well-known venture capital firms – and even the Indonesian government – are investing in the local tech industry. And why not? The cost of investing is lower, and the opportunities are just as big.

6. BBM is #1. And we’re not going anywhere.

Indonesia has plenty of big, thriving tech businesses (like Lazada Indonesia and Zalora Indonesia B2C e-commerce platforms, GO-JEK (the motorbike-based courier, transport and shopping service with over 200,000 drivers nationwide) and lots of well-funded startups. Even with so much activity, the market is still relatively fragmented, with lots of room for new players. There’s no doubt we’ll continue to see new ideas and new companies come and go over the next decade at least.

For years, BBM has been the most-installed and most commonly used app in Indonesia. We are thrilled to be part of this exciting market, launching a number of new services in the last year or so (like BBM Life, BBM Checkout, plus airtime top-up, games and streaming music through the BBM Shop). We also love having a front-row seat to the market’s developments, and a role in helping the industry mature. We have big plans for Indonesia – and we know others do, too. We can’t wait to see what comes next.

BBM Advertisers Are Capitalizing on the Shift From Holiday Shopping Marathons to Moments

mobile-holiday-shop

Holiday shopping is shifting from “marathons” to “moments,” Google revealed on its Inside AdWords blog recently. Instead of crack-of-dawn pilgrimages and daylong missions, people are using their mobiles to take advantage of free minutes here and there – waiting for a train, standing in line for coffee – to get through their lists. The historically big shopping days are becoming smaller, both online and off. (Except for Singles’ Day! More on that below.)

As consumers, our shopping sessions are shorter and more focused. We’re using the mobile channel to discover products, learn about them, and buy them. Mobile shopping is steadily growing in the UK, US, China and elsewhere, widely predicted to soon become the biggest piece of the e-commerce pie.

Singles’ Day is the exception – but increasingly mobile

Singles’ DayiStock_000071052995_Medium

is a celebration of being single. It originated in China among college students as a kind of anti-Valentine’s Day, with the general idea being that single people should treat themselves to a bargain for the occasion. It’s now spreading to other Asian countries with Chinese populations.

In the last few years, it has become the biggest online shopping day in the world. Singles’ Day is therefore bucking the trend that Google cites, of historically big shopping days becoming smaller. (This year, online marketplace Alibaba reported $14.32 billion in sales, making it the biggest online shopping day ever.)

But Singles’ Day traffic is right in line with the other trend: the shift to mobile. This year, 73% of purchases made on Alibaba in the first hour came via mobile, and 68% of overall sales.

It’s all part of the larger trend of people spending more time on mobile than on any other channel. And where the people go, advertisers follow.

BBM bustling for the holidays

That’s what we’re seeing this year in BBM: increased activity from advertisers and consumers. We served our first ads in BBM in July 2015, and introduced video in September. Our busy ad marketplace has ramped up at lighting speed to over 1 billion ad requests every day by October. Now the number is over 1.4 billion.

Helping that growth is a steady stream of new campaigns from e-commerce companies Blibli, Elevenia, Lazada, OLX, Qoo10, Rakuten and Tokopedia. We’ve also seen a lot of interest in our sponsored sticker packs from consumers and brands. Recently, we’ve added:bunny

  • Le Lapin Duracell, a holiday-themed Duracell sticker pack targeted to French users
  • MasterCard Rugby Emoji, a Rugby World Cup 2015 sticker pack targeted to the UK
  • Orijin Emoji Keyboard, promoting the Origin beverage in Nigeria
  • Toko Fashion Online, a fashion shopping sticker pack from Zalora targeted to Indonesians

Putting payment in place

This massive shift to the mobile channel is why we’re hard at work making it easier to shop on BBM. We’re already helping consumers and brands connect in meaningful ways. Now, we’re working on launching one-click payments in our top markets.

We recently updated BBM Pay, which includes BBM Money, which provides instant mobile payments, as well as credit card and bank transfer services to users of the app on all major platforms in Indonesia – the second-fastest e-commerce growth market in the world. Next, we’re looking to provide similar services in Africa and the Middle East.

Why one-click payments? Amazon pioneered one-click payments in the ’90s, making it faster than ever to get what you needed. Apple licensed the patent for its iTunes store, which effectively became one of the first successful mobile payment processes with the launch of iPhone. One-click payments are a big reason Über and similar services are so popular.

Simply put: one-click purchasing reduces barriers to purchase, which as any marketer knows, is a sure-fire way to increase sales.

As consumers enthusiastically embrace mobile shopping, we’ll continue to spur things along, providing the tools consumers want to connect with the brands they care about, to take advantage of shopping moments throughout their days and easily make purchases.