New Research by Infobip Reveals a Rapid Adoption in Conversational Channels in the Middle East

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According to recent research by Infobip, a cloud communications platform, conversational customer experiences and generative AI have significantly impacted interactions between people and brands in the MENA region. Infobip analysed over 473 billion digital communications interactions in 2023 between businesses and consumers and identified notable trends in business messaging.

As consumers in the MENA region look for deeper engagement with the brands they use, conversational messaging channels have become the focal point of communication growth. In 2023, Infobip observed an increase of 184% in voice and video applications, 146% in mobile app messages, and a 51% increase in the use of WhatsApp YoY in the Middle East region. This paradigm shift underscores the region’s proactive approach to embracing innovative communication technologies, facilitating seamless connectivity and engagement.

The research also shows that the telecommunication sector saw the highest growth in the adoption of conversational channels (89%), followed by the media and entertainment sector (53%), and the finance sector (52%).

Ivan Ostojić, Chief Business Officer at Infobip, said: “Our data shows how conversational experiences are rapidly spreading across the Middle East and the world as businesses roll out marketing, sales, and support use cases. Where 2022 revealed a spike in omnichannel adoption when brands recognised the importance of connecting with their customers on their preferred channel, 2023 shows how brands are perfecting the end-to-end customer journey. Customers can now seamlessly progress through a journey within a single conversational thread on a chat app. With the emergence of interactive AI, we expect brands to incorporate a federation of different chatbots and AI algorithms working together to trigger actions at the ideal points during the customer journey. In the next year, we foresee the widespread adoption in customer service, marketing and sale automation, and for operational use cases like scheduling deliveries and managing payments.”

Global insights

Conversational Support: Conversational support is gaining traction as businesses strive to deliver effective and efficient customer experiences. WhatsApp remains a preferred channel for conversational support, with 90% of support messages being sent over the chat app. However, there is a growing trend towards diversification of channel mix, particularly in specific regions. Infobip has witnessed a significant increase of 541%, 146%, and 284% in Messenger, Viber, and Line usage, respectively, indicating a shift towards leveraging various chat apps for customer support.

Conversational Marketing: Conversational marketing is becoming increasingly prevalent as brands seek to engage customers on the channels they use most frequently. There has been a notable 29% increase in mobile app messaging for marketing in 2023 compared to the previous year. WhatsApp remains the top digital channel for conversational marketing, driven by new features that enable seamless purchase journeys within a single chat window. Infobip has also observed significant increases in messaging apps such as Telegram, Line, Viber, and Messenger, reflecting the diverse messaging landscape. Additionally, RCS Business Messaging is emerging as a promising channel for conversational marketing.

The changing role of SMS: Infobip’s data from 2023 shows that SMS remains an important channel for business communication, but usage is changing where SMS is now being used alongside chat apps. Across all industries, brands most commonly use SMS with WhatsApp, with 25% of businesses choosing this combination. Moreover, where businesses and brands use two channels, SMS is one of the two options in 63% of cases.

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