What is Zalo? A 2021 Complete Introduction

  • Last update: 05/09/2021
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This article deals with everything you need to know about the Zalo mobile app. Before we start, get the right Zalo download links:

After a short review of Zalo history, we will present the main features in detail.

The Rise of Zalo App

What is Zalo
The Rise of Zalo App

Zalo is a free Over The Top (OTT) application service developed by the internet company Vinagame (VNG) in 2012. We also call it a “super app” as it integrates various features such as social networking or e-commerce.

Built by local people for local people, Zalo perfectly illustrates how understanding the Vietnamese market is crucial to be successful. The creator, Vuong Quang Khai, designed this product to run well on low-end device phones and unreliable internet connections.

This business orientation allowed Zalo to grow fast. While this app entered the Vietnamese market after WhatsApp and Viber, it beat all competitors from the very first year.

When giant messengers didn’t invest much in promotional activities, Zalo spent 2 million USD during the year after launching. Vietnamese people discovered Zalo and immediately adopted it. Locals barely heard of WeChat or Telegram. They knew what Zalo was.

Thanks to this strong marketing campaign, Zalo reached 2 million users in 2013. It became a solid player answering Vietnamese people’s needs, who have a strong preference for local products.

The name “Zalo” itself has a local flavored meaning. Zalo is the combination of “Zing” (which is a VNG web service) and “Alô” (which means “Hello” in Vietnamese over the phone).

Following the strategy “Vietnam first”, VNG designed Zalo with a proper local-friendly interface and Vietnamese language. English is also available even if, unlike competitors, the primary focus was on the local language. This ensured a better understanding of the market audience. Besides, Zalo decided to prioritize the Vietnamese users. Global expansion will come later.

Zalo reached its 100 million users in 2018 (mostly in Vietnam). The ASEAN post nominated Zalo as one of the top 10 ASEAN unicorns and Vietnam’s first-ever unicorn startup.

People tend to compare Zalo with WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, or Telegram. This is a mistake. Those mobile applications do not play in the same field. None of those competitors is close enough to achieve what Zalo made in Vietnam.

At Prodima Vietnam, we prefer to define Zalo in a more accurate way. Zalo is to Facebook what Coc Coc is to Google: a Vietnamese version of a powerful global digital service.

Zalo User Profiles

Of course, the majority of Zalo users are Vietnamese people. They connect to Zalo when in the country, but also when traveling so they can contact their relatives in Vietnam.

As Zalo is the most convenient local messaging app, most expatriates use it to communicate with the locals. They install Zalo for casual or professional purposes.

As of January 2021, Zalo reported these data about their audiences:

  • 60M monthly active users.
  • 68% between 24-44 years old.
  • 52% male & 48% female.
  • 53% rural & 47% urban.

According to Hootsuite, in January 2021, Zalo was the third most-used social media platform in Vietnam, right after YouTube and Facebook.

People download Zalo for the following reasons:

  • 79% to contact groups.
  • 79% to contact family & friends.
  • 73% to follow up on relatives.
  • 72% to share personal feelings & thoughts.

Since Zalo made a Vietnamese-friendly app, we can expect those figures to grow bigger soon.

List of Zalo Features

In 2012, Zalo was a free mobile calling and texting application. Progressively, VNG added new functionalities to make Zalo a “super app”.

It works on both smartphones and computers. Here is the complete list of Zalo features:

  • Instant messaging & group chat.
  • Multimedia share (image, audio, video).
  • Official Accounts (OA).
  • Zalo Ads.
  • Newsfeed & weather updates.
  • Zalo bank loan service (for consumers).
  • Zalo Shop (online store).
  • Zalo Pay (utility bills payment).
  • Public transport information & booking.
  • Doctor appointment & healthcare facilities booking.
  • Hotel booking (booking.com integration).

Zalo is tied to personal phone numbers, which made the application so successful. Its basic functions expanded quickly to compete with other popular messenger apps.

In mid-2021, during the covid-19 hardship, the platform launched a new feature called Zalo Connect. The purpose is to link people in need and deeply impacted by the pandemic.

From the Discovery page, people can select Zalo Connect and choose either “I need help” (tôi cần giúp đỡ) or “I want to help” (tôi muốn giúp đỡ). From this point, they can access a map and receive emergency help from the Zalo community or offer support.

Zalo Official Account

Zalo Official Accounts (OA) are equivalent to the business page (or fan page) on Facebook.

Many government entities, celebrities, and Vietnamese companies use a Zalo OA so people can follow their updates.

To get started, businesses must have a personal account. From this, they will be able to create a free Zalo Official Account. The admin verification requires users to upload their personal ID (CNMD for Vietnamese people) and face picture. Up to 2021, foreign citizens cannot verify their Official Account as their citizen ID or passport is not recognized by the system.

Zalo OA benefits from these specific features (not available on personal accounts):

  • Consolidated communication hub.
  • Always-on activities (for follower retention).
  • Data acquisition.
  • Loyalty & reward system.
  • Articles & messages broadcast.
  • Notification service.
  • Chatbot.
  • Access to Zalo Ads.

Unlike Facebook fan page, Zalo OA ensures that followers will read any posts published by the business. This creates tons of opportunities for companies to promote their brand, services, and products.

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Zalo Official Account

Zalo Ads

To run ads on Zalo platform, businesses need an Official Account. Depending on their industry, they may need to get a specific license or documentation before being allowed to promote.

Zalo ads are a powerful way to reach Vietnamese people. Companies see Zalo ads as an excellent complement to Facebook ads. The main difference is that Zalo targets by profile and phone number, while there is no interest targeting option like on Google or Facebook. In the end, Zalo ads are more precise than any other digital platform to target rural areas in Vietnam.

Here is a list of creative options to run ads on Zalo:

  • Video.
  • Article.
  • Official Account promotion (products & services).
  • Website traffic.
  • Product ads (via the Zalo Shop).

There are two downsides to Zalo ads. First, the data collection tools are more accurate on Facebook than on Zalo. Then, up to 2021, businesses can only deliver Zalo ads to mobile users (not on computers). VNG is continuously improving its digital platform and we can be sure that more features for Zalo ads will be available soon.

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Zalo Ads

Zalo Shop

In 2016, VNG Corporation proposed a new feature called Zalo Shop. This is an online marketplace where people can browse products and purchase them.

Extremely convenient for Vietnamese people, Zalo Shop includes functions like QR code, broadcast message, and chat connecting customers and vendors. Clients interested in a product can ask questions to the shop admin and get fast replies.

During the covid-19 lockdown in Vietnam, many locals used Zalo Shop to buy groceries. They reported the platform was much faster than any other delivery app despite the social restrictions.

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Zalo Shop

Zalo Pay

Zalo Pay is the e-wallet service that VNG launched in 2017. Zalo built this mobile payment application on top of the messenger app to take advantage of its huge user base.

The first step is to download and install the application on mobile:

It allows Vietnamese people to pay house bills like electricity, water, internet, or television. Zalo Pay transfers money via QR code and connects directly with bank accounts. Many retail chains and cinemas accept this payment method.

In 2018, Zalo Pay was the third payment application of the year in Vietnam, after MoMo and Viettel Pay. When businesses integrate payment gateways for their products and services, they often consider Zalo Pay by default.

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Zalo Pay

Why do Vietnamese People Love Zalo?

Vietnamese enjoy Zalo because they are patriotic and prefer local products. Besides, here is a list of reasons why people like using Zalo:

  • Vietnamese-friendly messenger
  • Simple & quick
  • Combination of files sharing, video calls, and chat
  • Suitable to communicate with big groups
  • Local interest for polls & surveys
  • More professional for work than Facebook
  • Adding friends directly from phone number (more durable)

In short, Vietnamese people find Zalo more practical than other apps or social media. They are proud to have a serious competitor for Facebook made in Vietnam.

The Future of Zalo

There is no question Zalo will continue to grow and increase its user database. This “super app” is so suitable to Vietnamese people that it cannot be otherwise.

With over 155 million mobile connections in Vietnam (for a population of 98 million), 97% of smartphone owners, an average of 2h21 daily time on social media, and 74% of media users within the total population, the market opportunities for Zalo are huge.

Some people, especially foreigners, usually ask: is Zalo safe? Yes, it is. VNG is aware of the risks and potential scams within the country. Zalo users, locals, and expatriates can count on a secure OTT application open for continuous optimizations.

We invite you to discover Prodima Vietnam Zalo Official Account and learn more about digital marketing.