There’s no denying the popularity of messaging apps among consumers, but apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat have grown like wildfire among businesses too. On Monday, Forrester Research released a report detailing the features of these apps that explain why they are taking over customer engagement.

The report, titled The Future Of Messaging Apps, broke down the three key components of a successful customer relationship in the digital age, and explained how messaging apps combine those factors into one experience. For starters, they have a high frequency of use.

Frequency of use, or frequency of interaction with a given technology, can show just how powerful that technology is. According to the Forrester report, these messaging apps “achieve some of the highest interaction rates for both US and UK consumers.” They also see heavy interaction in China. For example, a typical Chinese consumer in a metro area spends 10.4 hours a week on WeChat, and 55% of them open the app more than 10 times a day, the report said.

SEE: Meeker’s Internet Trends 2016: Keep an eye on messaging, UI, big data, and connected cars

Secondly, messaging apps hit an emotional connection that allows users to more broadly express themselves. The report explained how when the messaging app Line first introduced branded stickers and emoji, it was projected to only be successful in Japan. But, it took off in other areas as well, furthering the notion that this new “visual language” was what consumers wanted, the report said.

The third and final factor is convenience. As the report stated simply: “Make it easier for people to do something they value, and they’ll do it more.” Users can make payments, or even order a cab through a messaging app, the report said, and they don’t even have to leave the app to do so, further increasing engagement.

This means that businesses, and the marketers who represent them among consumers, will need to quickly adapt to this growing trend, if they haven’t already. Consumers are demanding the experience created by these messaging apps, and it would be detrimental to brand to avoid this shift.

Messaging apps that originated in Asia, such as WeChat, Line, or KakaoTalk are the most advanced in terms of their offerings, the report said. However, Facebook Messenger, with all the developer power of Facebook behind it, can scale more easily than all of its competitors. In terms of reach, the top five apps are as follows:

  1. WhatsApp – More than 1 billion active users
  2. Facebook Messenger – More than 1 billion active users
  3. WeChat – 806 million active users
  4. Kik – 300 million registered users
  5. Skype – 300 million active users

Additionally, while AI-based chatbots and Intelligent Assistants (IA) are currently a separate market than the messaging apps they work with, the report predicted that the two would combine in the future.

“Voice and SMS will stop being features and simply become the interface augmenting messaging-platform-based mobile services,” a Forrester blog post said. “Text-based interactions on bots and voice-based interactions with intelligent agents will progressively merge, powering conversations as a new computing interface.”

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Messaging apps are growing in popularity for brand interaction because they touch on frequency of use, emotional connection, and convenience.
  2. Asian messaging apps are the most advanced, but Facebook Messenger has the best potential for massive scale.
  3. AI chatbots and intelligent assistants will soon merge with messaging apps to further change how brands and consumers interact.