How did Rakuten Viber do amid the uncertain first half of 2020?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of uncertainties in many industries, and while losses are countless and impactful, the wins though not as many have also provided a ray of hope amid gloomy business forecasts.

The first half of 2020 brought a new set of experiences for the Rakuten Viber team, but also a new set of milestones. Throughout the Asia Pacific region, Viber’s performance has steadily grown, with a 208% growth in messages sent to Communities and a 129% jump in views in Communities compared to the same period last year.

Compared to 2019 data, Viber has recorded an increase of usage in Sri Lanka during the first half of 2020, with a 39% increase in daily activations, and a 34% rise in sending group messages, with a growth of 91% in the number of messages sent in a group. While 1-1 messages increased by 37%, and Community views surged by 118%.

Likewise, the rest of the region experience accelerated activity, especially when it comes to communicating within Groups and Communities. Countries in the Asia-Pacific saw strong growth in the number of messages sent within Viber groups compared to 2019—Philippines at 95%, Myanmar at 41%, Nepal at 67%, Vietnam at 43%, and  Bangladesh at 48%. Community Engagement similarly grew, with most countries almost doubling their numbers of Community Views, Myanmar at 106% growth, Nepal at 195% and Philippines at 2.5x increase in community viewers. Bangladesh saw solid growth in their Community Views with their 77% increase.

As one of the largest messaging apps in the world, Viber has also entered into new significant partnerships in the first part of the year, which all focused on providing people with reliable and life-saving information about COVID-19 and individuals with a space where they feel can connect with others amid physical distancing rules.

Similarly in Sri Lanka, Viber launched an ecommerce bot with the biggest supermarket chain Cargills Foodcity that allows users to purchase essential goods that can be delivered to their homes or to be picked up at their closest outlet. National Lottery Sri Lanka also launched its own Viber bot and Community. The bot supports online purchase of lottery tickets and allows people to check the official results and winners of the lottery.

Known for having the largest female customer base in the country, Peoples Bank, launched a special Women’s Day bot and sticker pack. Newsfirst, the only media institution to have 3 different channels catering to each language used in the country (Sinhala/Tamil/English), created not only a bot but also a sticker pack and a Community this year.

As it celebrates its 10th anniversary in December with an exciting line-up of surprises for users, Viber continues to develop as a lifetime app, empowering people to communicate securely, work conveniently, and connect with brands.

With a bold vision to be a lifetime app, Viber has also added several new user-centric features since the start of 2020 to complement the lives of users and provide them with a better app experience. These features are especially relevant now that people are hyper connected to virtual life. My Notes enabled users to sync their to-do lists and media across all their devices. Birthday reminders began appearing on users’ home pages to make it easier for them to know which of their contacts was celebrating their special day. Disappearing messages allowed people to set a limit to the lifespan of sensitive texts, while the one-of-a-kind GIF Creator brought out everyone’s inner creativity with its easy process of turning phone videos into GIFs.

Response to COVID-19 and Growth in Community Engagement

In response to COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent quarantine orders, Viber has increased its capacities and doubled the maximum number of participants to 20 people at once in Group Video and Audio Calls to address the restrictions on face-to-face interactions. Viber is also allowing users to react to messages in Communities, to help bring online communication a step closer to real life convos.

Viber has launched a special chatbot for the World Health Organization, allowing the international agency to share verified information on COVID-19 and answer some of the people’s pressing questions on the coronavirus all within their messaging app. The Philippines’ own Department of Health (DOH) has created its own Viber Community and Kira Chatbot  to amplify their online reach and effectively provide crucial updates on the situation in the country. DOH has also used the platform to debunk fake news.

In fact, the top health organizations in countries within Asia-Pacific partnered with Viber to help send verified information on the pandemic on a trusted and widely used platform, such as Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports, Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau, ICT in Bangladesh, and Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population.

Cutting business ties with Facebook

One of the biggest decisions Viber did in the first half of the year was to cut all business ties with Facebook for continuously mishandling their user data for profit, joining other big companies in standing up against the social media juggernaut in protecting their users. The messaging app, which considers security as one of its core strengths, has immediately pulled out all its ad spending on the social media platform. It has also removed the Facebook Connect and GIPHY features within the app.

“Viber’s continued growth in the Asia Pacific Region shows that despite social distancing protocol imposed by the pandemic, people can continue to maintain quality connections that prioritize their privacy and ease,” says Anna Znamenskaya, Chief Growth Officer for Rakuten Viber. “These past few months, we’ve truly seen how Viber empowers people to make the most out of whatever situation they’re in. With just your smartphone and the Viber app, you can still connect with family and friends, earn a living, have fun online, get verified news, and run errands from the safety of your home.”

With such an impressive streak in the first half of the year alone, Viber vows to push harder to help users seamlessly integrate the messaging app into their lives as the world continues to brace for the long-term effects of the pandemic for the rest of the year and beyond.

“We envision Viber to be your go-to indispensable app that empowers you to accomplish more, and help you keep all those important connections with solutions that are all right at your fingertips,” adds Znamenskaya.