The Rise of Zalo App
Being a latecomer is an extreme challenge.
When a few companies have established their positions in the market by gathering millions of followers all around the world, gaining a small share, let alone dethroning them is almost impossible.
However, exceptions happen.
When they do, it’s usually a fascinating case of a great product winning over the hearts of customers with something they’ve never seen.
This is exactly what’s happening in the mobile messaging market now.
Can someone even question the dominance of apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Viber, right?
Well, there’s an app that’s currently on its way to challenge the dominance of these platforms in Southeast Asia, and this time it’s real.
It’s called Zalo (the name is a combination of “Zing” and “Alo” (which is the Vietnamese equivalent for hello on the phone), and it was introduced to the world at least several years before the major market players but has already gained impressive followership.
80 Percent of Smartphone users in Vietnam have installed #Zalo #App on their phones.
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Like many other companies before, Zalo has a special story that began with its developer hacking into the network of Vietnam’s largest IT company, EPT.
Yes, you read that right.
Quang Khai, the person behind Zalo, has begun his journey is a common “tech” way by showing his superior expertise in an extraordinary fashion.
Instead of calling on the IT teams to increase the security and firing a lot of people, the chief of EPT did an interesting thing.
He wanted to know how Khai managed his hack, and when he finally understood what the young developer did, he was very impressed. Shortly after that, he offered Khai a job at EPT.
Khai’s ambitions led him to create his own company, VNG, which released Zalo in late 2012 when messaging apps like WhatsApp and Viber were already in the market for at least a couple of years.
At that point, it was created to challenge the competitors at the Vietnamese market and provide fast and reliable messaging on the local unreliable 3G infrastructure as well as cheap smartphones.
The app has really caught on with the locals, as the company hit 2 million users in just one year after the release (many of which reported loving its unique features like Funny Icons).
Moreover, Zalo has started to drive interest from smartphone users from other countries, including Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, Australia, and the U.S. (more on that in the “Where is Zalo Popular?” section below).
In fact, according to statistics, smartphone penetration in the country was estimated at only 31 percent in 2017, and was projected to increase to 40 percent in 2020.
In just four years after the release, Zalo has become extremely popular in its home country, with about eight in 10 smartphone users having it installed, according to the data by eMarketer.
As you can see, Zalo has managed to beat such well-known apps as Facebook Messenger, Line, Viber, and even Skype.
According to the research, Vietnamese users under 35 years of age were more likely to have the app installed, and they preferred it for exchanging text messages and photos as well as voice and video calls.
Now, Zalo has grown to a “super app,” or an app that incorporates a wide range of options in addition to its primary options of text messaging and calling (we’ll talk about these great options in the next articles).
Together with other super apps like Go-Viet and Grab, Zalo is the biggest player on the local market, and its global outreach is also expanding.
#Zalo is has an estimated value of $900 Million
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Introductions to the 5 Panels of Zalo
So why did so many users like Zalo and switched to it? One obvious reason is the wide range of useful and locally relevant features it came with, so let’s take a closer look.
Where is Zalo Popular?
The country with the highest number of Zalo users is, of course, Vietnam. The locals have really fallen in love with the home-grown product, so they comprise the largest share of users.
In fact, surveys estimate that about 80 percent of the local smartphone users have Zalo installed, which makes it the most popular messaging app in the local market.
Moreover, according to this Vietnamnet article, more than 20 provinces - including Quang Ngai, Da Nang City, Dong Nai, Tien Giang, Dong Thap - have chosen Zalo as the official portal for communication with the citizens as well as administrative procedures and processes
Vina research also discovered that more than 84 percent of locals were aware of Zalo, which was a bit lower than Facebook, but still quite impressive.
In 2018, which marks the 6th year after the release, the app reached 100 million users from around the world.
According to Vietnamnet, more than 900 million messages, 50 million calls, and 45 million pictures were shared through Zalo each day last year.
The stats on international usage are still lacking or incomplete, but I’ve managed to find the following interesting figures from around the web:
- Number of users in Myanmar: 2 million (2016)
- 74 and 49 percent of Vietnamese women in urban areas prefer Zalo to communicate with their husbands and parents, respectively
- 43 and 38 percent of Vietnamese smartphone users have abandoned Viber and Line, respectively (often to make a switch to more popular messaging apps, Zalo and Messenger).
Seems like Zalo’s position in the local is quite strong, right? Let’s now find out why by taking a look at the features it has for you.
“We are not sure about our success in new international market because it has been such a short time but based on our success in #Vietnam, we will try our best,” - Vuong Quang Khải, founder #Zalo
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Here’s the complete list of Zalo features:
- Text messaging
- Image and multimedia sharing
- Getting information and updates from official accounts of organizations, brands, and celebrities
- Consumer loan services via Zalo Bank ( Shinhan Bank Vietnam)
- Transportation bookings and public transport information
- Doctor appointment bookings
- News feeds
- Weather updates
- Zalo Pay to pay utility bills
- Zalo shop where you can browse and buy popular consumer goods.
Zalo does much more than allowing you to share images and texts (it’s called a “super app” for a reason). Impressive, right?
That’s the essence of a “super app” - provide the user with a range of features that go beyond the app’s primary purpose. Now, let’s talk about how to use them.
Zalo Official Accounts
As mentioned, Zalo is being used by a lot of government agencies, celebrities, and companies in Vietnam, which means that you can follow their official accounts and get updates.
To do so, you have to click on the second menu item at the bottom of the app’s environment - Contacts - and select Official Accounts.
It’s the second tab in the menu at the top of the screen (as you can see in the below image, the first one is Contacts).
This is definitely one of the biggest reasons Zalo is so popular in the home market.
Everyone who has used it knows that it comes with a ridiculously big selection of awesome stickers for just about any occasion or emotion.
Looking for the right one is pretty easy. Just select the sticker icon on the bottom of the screen while in the conversation mode and explore the categories.
The Zalo Sticker Bar that you can check out also has an impressive selection of cute free stickers for you. Just select the one you like, scan the QR code you’ll find on each sticker’s page and just like that, it’ll be added to your app.
The selection of the stickers is growing every day, as Zalo becomes more popular, so you won’t run out of great options to share with your friends.
With Zalo, you can start a group chat and keep in touch with your friends, family, and colleagues.
As you can see in the below image, you can use the calendar, reminders, send media files, and even join private groups with a code sent by the group owner (the so-called “Offline Groups”).
With Zalo Shop, you can easily buy popular items online.
There’s a good selection of products from the local sellers, so if you buy things online, chances are you’ll use Zalo to make a purchase at least once.
Indeed, built-in financial services are definitely something that we don’t see a lot in apps, so this one is what makes Zalo a true super app.
The process of buying is very easy + there’s a never-ending supply of discounts from online stores.
This year, Shinhan Bank Vietnam has launched a smart consumer loan on Zalo, which you can review and apply for.
The monthly interest rate on such a loan ranges between $1.33 and $2.4, and can be provided to users with the minimum monthly wage paid through a local bank account.
To view the offer, click the More option on the main menu, where you’ll see something like this.
Another feature that makes Zalo so popular, Transport is accessible from the More menu option.
Thanks to it, you can check public transport routes, travel durations, and the cost.
Using Transport is very easy: just type in a starting location and a destination, and the app will give you all the details.
Use this one to book hotels, homes, and rooms throughout Vietnam. Thanks to the integration with Booking.com, you’ll get a decent range of options to choose from.
Finding and booking a stay is very user-intuitive and easy; in fact, it reminds a bit of Booking.com.
Here, let’s take a look at the app’s environment and how to navigate its features.
Zalo Messages Panel
The first panel on the main menu, it displays the chat rooms and lets you find friends with the contacts from your phonebook.
Here, you can also update your account information, select a new image, and start a chat with someone.
The menu marked by + at the top right corner also has a link to the Zalo desktop app, Zalo calendar, and the QR scanner.
Zalo Contacts Panel
This is where you view and manage your friends and official accounts and add your bio description.
Like any other Zalo options, finding and connecting with friends is easy. If you’d like to check if any of your Facebook friends are using the app, too, you can do that by linking your own account.
To connect to Facebook, click on Start in the Find More Friends section.
Zalo Groups Panel
As mentioned above, this is where you view, manage, and create groups.
Find the Groups option on the main menu (the one in the middle).
Zalo Timeline Panel
The next main menu item, Timeline is the place for sharing your stories by publishing posts to your groups and private chat rooms.
If you get a response to your story from a friend, you’ll see the notifications here, too.
Just like on the Facebook app, you’ll be able to update your friends information very quickly in this menu option to see what they’re up to.
Zalo More Panel
Here, you’ll access complete profile information as well as review the top-selling items in the shop, see popular stickers, and get recommendations for official accounts.
Also, the menu just below your profile picture provides access to the options that we’ve reviewed, including Bank, Travel, Sticker, Shop, and Transport.
#Zalo does much more than allowing you to share images and texts. It’s called a #superapp for a reason.
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Zalo: How to Register
This one is pretty easy. Assuming that you’ve downloaded and installed Zalo whether from Google’s Play Store or Apple’s Store, you’ll be greeted with the following screen with a quick introduction as well as Login/Registration option.
Choose your preferred language and proceed with the registration.
As you can see, there are three language options available, so the developers will need to work with a translation service to add more and expand the reach (in our experience, the Vietnamese copy was great but some locally relevant content parts were not translated to English).
During the registration process, you’ll be asked to provide your full name as well as the phone number.
That’s basically it. It takes about 30 seconds to take care of this and you can start using the app.
When you’ll land on Zalo’s home for the first time, take a look at the menu below where you’ll find five panels where you can find more features: Messages, Contacts, Groups, Timeline, and More
What’s the Future of Zalo?
At this point, the creators of Zalo are clearly focusing on the home market where customer love is.
Indeed, this is a clever strategy because the low smartphone penetration in Vietnam shows that it still has a lot of room for growth.
Currently, Zalo is slowly expanding beyond its home market, so it’s reasonable to assume that it can become one of the leaders in the Southeast Asian messaging app market.
Should you try it?
If super apps are your thing or something that sounds interesting to you, then sure.
It definitely has the potential to help not only with communication, but stuff like getting around.
However, note that the app’s audience and features are still fairly limited geographically.
"Most of #Zalo staff are young people, a strength to develop in the internet market". - Vuong Quang Khải, founder Zalo
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