What is Zalo? A 2024 Complete Introduction

  • Last update: 03/11/2023

Benjamin Poirrier

Digital Marketing Expert

Zalo app blue icon

This article deals with everything you need about the Zalo mobile app. Before we start, get the correct Zalo download links:

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

The Rise of the Zalo App

What is Zalo
First Years of Growth of the 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 being 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 the year after launching. Vietnamese people discovered Zalo and immediately adopted it. Locals barely heard of WeChat or Telegram. They knew what Zalo was.

Zalo reached 2 million users in 2013 thanks to this strong marketing campaign. It became a solid player in answering Vietnamese people’s needs, who strongly prefer 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 is 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 85 million users in 2024 (96% of them being in Vietnam). The ASEAN post nominated Zalo as one of the top 10 ASEAN unicorns and Vietnam’s first-ever unicorn startup.

People 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 more accurately. Zalo is to Facebook what Coc Coc is to Google: a Vietnamese version of a robust 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 and 48% female.
  • 53% rural and 47% urban.

According to Statista, in 2023, Zalo was the second most-used social media platform in Vietnam, right after Facebook and before YouTube.

People download Zalo for the following reasons:

  • 79% to contact groups.
  • 79% to contact family and friends.
  • 73% to follow up on relatives.
  • 72% to share personal feelings and 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 and group chat.
  • Multimedia sharing (image, audio, video).
  • Official Accounts (OA).
  • Zalo Ads.
  • Newsfeed and weather updates.
  • Zalo bank loan service (for consumers).
  • Zalo Shop (online store).
  • Zalo Pay (utility bills payment).
  • Public transport information and booking.
  • Doctor appointments and healthcare facilities booking.
  • Hotel booking (booking.com integration).

Zalo is tied to personal phone numbers, which made the application successful. Its primary 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, 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 can create a free Zalo Official Account. The admin verification requires users to upload their ID (CNMD for Vietnamese people) and face pictures. Until 2024, foreign citizens cannot verify their Official Account as the system does not recognize their citizen ID or passport.

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

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

Unlike Facebook fan pages, 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 Screenshot Examples

Zalo Ads

To run ads on the 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 be promoted.

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 no interest targeting option like Google or Facebook exists. Ultimately, 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 and 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 2024, 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.

Of course, remember that Zalo ads are only visible in Vietnam. If you want to target the Vietnamese community living in the U.S., even if they have Zalo installed on their smartphone, they won’t see your advertisement.

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Zalo Ads Examples

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.

Highly convenient to Vietnamese people, Zalo Shop includes functions like QR codes, broadcast messages, 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. Despite the social restrictions, they reported the platform was much faster than any other delivery app.

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Zalo Shop Screenshots

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 exploit its vast 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 a QR code and connects directly with bank accounts. Many retail chains and cinemas accept this payment method.

In 2024, Zalo Pay was the third payment application of the year in Vietnam, after MoMo and Viettel Pay, with around 70 million of users. When businesses integrate payment gateways for their products and services, they often consider Zalo Pay by default.

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Zalo Pay Functionalities

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 and quick
  • Combination of file sharing, video calls, and chat
  • Suitable for communicating with big groups
  • Local interest in polls and surveys
  • More professional for work than Facebook
  • Adding friends directly from a 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 that Zalo will continue to grow and increase its user database. This “super app” is so suitable for 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’s Official Account and learn more about digital marketing.