Do you think WeChat can overtake Facebook and become the dominant mobile platform for the world? You may have already heard of WeChat. If you haven’t, it’s time to learn why it’s such a formidable app. It is a combination of WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, Amazon and much more. It’s very fun and user friendly, you can do just about anything on this one app.
My App Usage Comparison
Why WeChat is a key to business in China:
- Driven by user experience
- Mobile banking and investment services
- Official accounts that boosts business
- Mobile payments for both offline and online goods
1. Driven by User Experience
Over half a billion people use WeChat, an app owned by Chinese Internet Company Tencent launched in 2011. It touches everything from consumers communicating with friends, to sharing their daily moments, to buying everything from food and paying credit card bills. It’s IM, ecommerce, banking, dating, gaming and marketing rolled into one platform, where you can shop, order food, book doctor appointments, find parking spots nearby, book hotels, hire maid/nanny/babysitter, hail a taxi and so on. Furthermore, you can shake your phone to find people in the world who are shaking their phones at the same time — another way to make friends online, similar to Tinder where you swipe left or right to find a match.
Chat with individuals/groups
Similar to Facebook, you can chat with an individual or with a group of people. There are many fun features including text and voice messaging, stickers, voice/video call, share insight (record up to 6 seconds live video), send red packet (gifting), transfer money (similar to Paypal, Apple Pay), share location, create group chat and invite people to join.
The sticker gallery is always updated to the current trends. It appears that the new cartoon movie “The Secret Life of Pets” is the current #1 hot sticker.
WeChat moments is like newsfeed on Facebook, but in a more streamlined fashion. Besides the UI difference, comments are only accessible to people who are connected to each other on WeChat. Additionally, you won’t see any 3rd party ads directly in your moments. You will only see ads after clicking into a specific post and if that post contains one.
Tens of millions of users send Red Packets (red envelopes) stuffed with digital cash to each other every day on WeChat. Over 8 billion “red envelopes” were sent over WeChat during 2016 Chinese New Year. Learn more
The money sent through Red Packets will be automatically transferred to the user’s WeChat Wallet so they can use it to pay for products and services on WeChat and enjoy exclusive promotions and campaigns on WeChat.
I shook my phone, it immediately showed me people who shook it at the same time, and some greeting messages from strangers.
Message in a Bottle
You can throw a bottle and record a message. When people picked it up, they can hear your voice and respond to it. Or you can do what I did, picking up messages-in-bottles from a stranger around the world.
I am not a game person, but I find it amazing that there are games available on WeChat. Think about it, if you launched a new game and it’s featured on WeChat, how many users can you potentially attract?
2. Mobile banking and investment services
WeChat allows users to link bank cards to their WeChat account, where they can create salary saving plans, set up mortgage auto pay and pay back their credit cards. In 2014, WeChat launched an online personal investment fund for its users in China. It allows people to get better interest rates for their savings than from banks. This is a pretty big deal actually since Chinese banks are much worse for savers than US banks in terms of interest paid.
3. Official accounts that boosts business
If you are planning on doing business in China, creating a WeChat Official Account is the first step towards marketing your brand. Official accounts provide a formal way for your companies to interact with customers on the platform. There are three forms of official account- Subscription accounts, Service accounts and enterprise accounts. You’ll need to provide a Chinese ID number, or have a registered Chinese business.
- Learn how to register an official WeChat account as a non-Chinese business.
- Learn the difference among these three official accounts.
If your marketing strategy revolves around pushing content to users, subscription account can be just what you need. It is mostly used for the daily news and information broadcast. Companies can create interesting, useful and relevant content and show new products and offers to members, to attract and retain users.
Example — Dior China
On Aug 1st, Dior became the first luxury brand to sell top-end bags on WeChat. They released the limited edition of “Lady Dior” bag at the price of 28,000RMB ($4,210), and it was already sold out on the next Day.
According to tmogroup.asia, this is the first time that top-end bags have been sold through WeChat. Dior is the first to make its top-end product available on WeChat, even earlier than in stores. WeChat launched “WeChat Moments advertising”, giving any brand access to targeted audiences according to location, interest, age, gender, device and phone network in Beijing, Shanghai, and 35 first and second tier Chinese cites. For luxury brands like Dior, this new ad format enables them to target users by demographics in specific regions, therefore making the advertisement way more valuable.
Example — Coupons
People can send coupons to friends on WeChat. A friend sent me a 20 RMB coupon from Qunar.com, a Chinese online travel information provider and mainland search engine for web-based and mobile users. I clicked on the coupon, there is a “Official Account” tab on the detail page, which leads me to click on the “Follow” button. That’s an example of how you attract users and generate new leads on WeChat.
4. Mobile payments for both offline and online goods
With WeChat Wallet, users can electronically send cash to friends and family, or split lunch/dinner cost. Cards linked to the wallet can also be used to Cash In and increase your wallet’s cash balance, to pay for services online through WeChat such as electricity, food or hotel rooms.
With WeChat wallet, customers can check out cash-free and bankcard-free at convenience stores like 7–11, supermarkets like Carrefour, fast food restaurants like Mcdonalds. They can pay bills at hotels, parking lots, even pay for traffic tickets in some cities like Beijing.
According to tmogroup.asia.com
During a WeChat Payment partner conference recently, The number of offline retail stores integrated with WeChat Payment has been revealed: over 300,000. Offline retailers are the ones to benefit as well through WeChat payment. For example, McDonald’s China was the first to join in WeChat payment integration in 2015. Now, 30% customers of McDonald’s made payment using WeChat.
Can you imagine yourself booking a hotel to visit Las Vegas or shopping on Amazon through Facebook or Whatsapp? You probably haven’t even thought about it, but this function already exists on WeChat. JD.com is a Chinese electronic commerce company that is the largest B2C online retailers in China by transaction volume and revenue. Its app platform is well integrated into WeChat, where I can easily search and purchase products without going to a different app.
Chinese consumers tend to be more influenced by their peers than the average western consumers, especially WeChat’s younger user base. This further builds up the power of using WeChat for business when seeking to influence smaller groups and communities. Consumers use WeChat to collect information, opinions and comments about products and companies. They won’t always be able to find you directly via a search so instead they have to do it through QR codes. Make sure your brand’s QR Code appears in your shops, on your packaging, social media and website.
- Learn why QR code works so well in China.
Economist.com has an article describes WeChat’s world. Here are a few highlights:
As one American venture capitalist puts it, WeChat is there “at every point of your daily contact with the world, from morning until night”. It is this status as a hub for all internet activity, and as a platform through which users find their way to other services, that inspires Silicon Valley firms, including Facebook, to monitor WeChat closely. They are right to cast an envious eye. People who divide their time between China and the West complain that leaving WeChat behind is akin to stepping back in time.
For Western firms, the most telling lesson from WeChat’s success is that consumers and advertisers will handsomely reward companies that solve the myriad problems that bedevil the mobile internet.
One executive, David Marcus, who runs Facebook Messenger … calls WeChat, simply, “inspiring”. His plan, to transform Messenger into a platform where people can communicate with businesses and buy things, sounds familiar.
- Facebook’s WeChat-ification, why Facebook is playing catchup.
- How Facebook got inspired by WeChat and plans to turn Messenger into a platform.
- Learn why China is far beyond copying the West. Great innovation is happening everywhere in China.
Still not convinced? Watch this video about WeChat made by New York Times.
Lastly, I couldn’t cover every single WeChat function in one post, but I hope this article helps you better understand WeChat, better understand why it is important to business in China, and what impact it brings to China, and across countries.