Instant messaging channels are set to overtake email to become the most popular form of digital communication among consumers in 2015, according to data from Juniper Research.

The use of IM services, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat, will surpass email for the first time, accounting for a predicted 43 trillion messages throughout the year.

Email itself topped the tables in 2014 as the most popular communications channel with a total 35 trillion messages sent, but ‘junk mail’ remains a major problem for the channel according to Juniper, which states that 80% of all email sent is classed as spam.

Predicted to account for 160 trillion messages sent by 2019, IM’s soaring popularity has been partly attributed to these changing perceptions around the value of email, with research also citing the channel’s low cost of use as one of the trend’s chief contributing factors.

Offline rivalry

However, despite the rapid adoption of IM and the resulting advertising opportunity, the report also highlighted the continuing success of SMS, or ‘enterprise messaging, as a key B2C communication channel.

UK mobile operator EE was cited as showing 99% of text messages are read, with one in ten of these opened within three minutes of being sent.

Juniper expect most businesses to continue to rely on enterprise messaging to send customers information in light of these high metrics, as it allows ‘almost guaranteed and secure delivery of messages to consumers’.

While there may be a trend towards Over-the-Top (OTT) messaging, whereby brands send messages directly over IM services, the researchers pointed at the success of SMS where mobile internet coverage is poor, and in regions where smartphone penetration is low.

Despite IM’s considerable growth, set to soar ahead as a leading channel of communication, Juniper conclude: “IM’s equivalent per-message revenue return is forecast to be less than 1% of that generated through SMS and MMS in 2019.”