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Instant Messaging (IM) apps in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands - Statistics & Facts

Instant Messaging (IM) apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat are important methods of communication in three countries who actively use (mobile) Internet. In 2018, the number of Internet users in the Netherlands was roughly 16 million, whereas Luxembourg had a total of roughly 500,000 users. Of the three countries, Luxembourg used the Internet the most. As of 2018, the total number of Internet users as share of the total population in Luxembourg was 98 percent, with the roughly ten million users in Belgium representing 89 percent of the total population. The Benelux region also has a high smartphone penetration rate: in 2017, 88 percent of Dutch consumers aged 13 years and older owned a smartphone. Smartphone ownership in Belgium was highest among 18 to 34-year-olds, at more than 90 percent in 2017.

Facebook Messenger is the most used IM app in Belgium. 44 percent of Belgian respondents indicated in a 2017 survey they used the app for daily communication purposes, outscoring WhatsApp, Snapchat, iMessage and Skype. News reports in Belgium quoted data provided by Facebook that over 5.3 million Belgians logged into the social network every day. The messenger app was used the most by 19 to 24-year-olds. WhatsApp was less popular in Belgium: roughly 42 percent of Belgian respondents aged 18 to 24 years old used WhatsApp on a daily basis in 2017. This is unlikely to change in the near future, as teenagers in Flanders listed Facebook and Snapchat as their most used smartphone apps. Like Belgium, Facebook was the the biggest social media platform in Luxembourg in 2017.

In the Netherlands, WhatsApp is the dominant communication channel with approximately 11.5 million users in 2018 and an installed base of 12.26 million. The app was used not only by teenagers or Millennials: roughly 86 percent of Dutch respondents aged 40 to 64 years old used WhatsApp Messenger. As opposed to Belgium and Luxembourg, WhatsApp outperforms Facebook and Facebook Messenger in the Netherlands. When asked, for example, which digital communication platform Dutch consumers used first after waking up, roughly 42 percent of respondents checked WhatsApp, with 14 percent using Facebook. Dutch society is critical about Facebook’s views regarding privacy and reports it spread fake news. In a survey conducted in February 2018, roughly 44 percent of respondents indicated they agreed with a statement that said they spent less time on Facebook than they used to. Despite these concerns, however, the use of WhatsApp and Facebook among Millennials in the Netherlands was still higher than their use of Snapchat. The picture app was used more by teenagers: 72 percent of respondents aged 15 to 19 years old indicated in a 2018 survey they used the application.

People in the Benelux region tend to make a clear distinction between personal and business communication. While IM apps are often used in all three countries for personal communication, they are less common for commercial or business ends. In the Netherlands, for example, 92 percent of respondents indicated in a 2017 survey they did not purchase anything after receiving a commercial message via WhatsApp. Among Belgium's youth, e-mail is used more often than Snapchat or Instagram. Consumers appreciate a personal approach via their favored communication channel, and tend to dislike chatting with a virtual assistant or chatbot.


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