Top 5 reasons why WeChat is crucial for your China business

With more than 900 million active users, WeChat has changed the way

people in China live their daily lives.  What began as an application to

send messages similar to WhatsApp, has since morphed into a

multidimensional platform that offers its members a simple yet highly

effective way to take care of most of their everyday needs, from paying

bills to transfer money, get news and manage personal finances, among

many others.

WeChat, or Weixin as it is called in China, has redefined the laws of gravity in the app world. No other application has been able to expand its user base in such mind-blowing speed and with such efficacy.

The number of WeChat subscribers surpasses the estimated 731 million total Chinese internet users, and out measures the population of the European Union (at 510 million).

No longer is WeChat just a basic chatting app, but includes all the everyday essentials in the interface of a single app. By linking a WeChat account to a bank card, users can order taxis, buy airplane, train, and movie tickets, book hotels, pay utility bills, transfer money to other users, top-up cell phone accounts, and manage personal finances. 

The app also offers a searchable news feed-like interface, called Moments, for tracking updates of individuals and organizations, and much like Facebook, users can also subscribe to specific accounts for updates.

Chinese WeChat subscribers do not need to take their wallets when they leave their homes. Over 600 million WeChat Pay accounts are active, with restaurants, clothing stores, and street food vendors, and use QR codes to replace cash and bank cards. Handheld machines once used for swiping cards now come equipped with a barcode and QR code scanner.

For the user, even smart watches can display the WeChat personal QR code, allowing payments to happen from the simple flick of a wrist. Digital payment by WeChat has become far more popular than other digital currencies (such as bitcoin), causing a shift in financial behaviors as Chinese surge from a cash and bank card society to a dependence upon personalized barcodes.

Experts at the McKinsey Global Institute estimate that the transition from cash and card to digital payments will increase GDP in developing economies by 6 percent before 2025, adding $3.7 trillion and approximately 95 million jobs to the global economy. Within Chinese borders alone, digital payments via WeChat and AliPay enabled nearly $3 trillion in digital payments in 2016, a 20-fold increase over the previous four years. 

The apps created by Tencent, the parent company behind WeChat, and Alibaba (AliPay) have supported further social development by creating online markets for agricultural goods, enabling service providers to engage with their users, and raising funds to support humanitarian assistance programs such as drought relief in South Africa or earthquake recovery in Sichuan province.

Foreign companies which seek to expand their business in China, often overlook the power of the country’s biggest social network. After WhatsApp, it is also the second largest messaging platform in the world. International firms tend to prefer more traditional marketing vehicles and miss the opportunities offered by this exciting global application.  

Many companies view WeChat -mistakenly- as just another messaging app. The beauty of WeChat is that it combines the functionality of Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Uber, Monzo and every retail app all rolled into one ‘super app’. It is designed as a one-stop-shop for the end-user and provides the ideal online environment for brands to get noticed in the Chinese market.

Here are 5 reasons why it is crucial to include WeChat as a part of your China strategy in China:

1. More than 900 million regular users.

As the largest social media platform in the country, WeChat represents an opportunity for your company to connect with the Chinese consumer, Chinese companies and build a network or ecosystem to help you become successful in the market. WeChat is an integral part of everyone's daily lives and will allow you to get their attention.

2. No other social platform offers a better way to connect with your target audience

Based on their users’ browsing history or location, WeChat allows you to create content and target it to specific consumers who subscribe to your company. This is the first and most important step to get your services or products in front of the right customers. The platform offers two different account types for businesses: Subscription or Service.

Subscription allows you to push regular content and notifications which are displayed in a sub-section for users who subscribe to your account. The Service option is more advanced, and your content will reach your subscribers’ main ‘Moments’ feed (such as the Newsfeed feature on Facebook). Luring users to subscribe to your account is essential for success. Many businesses extend exclusive WeChat offers just for their subscribers.

Because there is a much stronger culture of sharing posts in China, producing the right content will lead to greater rewards.

3. Direct communication with consumers and real-time feedback

One of WeChat's most interesting features is its ability to allow followers and brands to have a direct channel of communication. This type of personalized interaction between vendors and buyers ensures greater consumer satisfaction. When companies present their new products on WeChat, they can get immediate feedback from users who will be happy to share their honest opinions and first impressions.

This will allow your company to collect valuable data for marketing purposes. When it comes to data analysis and metrics there is a wealth of information to draw on to improve your marketing strategy with customer insights, traffic figures, click through rates and impressions.

Customer service can be offered as well on WeChat through individual and group chats. Offering this service will greatly improve your reputation as it is the most convenient method for customers to contact you.

4. Offline to online leads convert more easily

E-commerce companies can establish a digital ‘Micro Store’ where users can explore and find out about different products within the app and make purchases in just a few clicks using their WeChat wallet. Online shopping could not get any easier. QR codes are also widely used in China and with just a quick scan, anyone who comes across your brand in the physical world will be connected to your WeChat account, and thus your Micro Store, within seconds. Ensuring your QR code is visible on all your product packaging, in-country stores, and your other online presences, is essential to engaging Chinese consumers.

WeChat is built around the scanning of QR codes to access content and for users to add one another.

5. WeChat users can be found in other countries

WeChat has begun to expand its reach beyond China, which should be reason enough to get your attention. According to experts, there are over 100 million WeChat users outside China and the company is actively working on adding more users in other major markets such as India, South East Asia and Latin America. The system currently supports over 20 different international languages, and this number is set to grow further in the future.

WeChat gives brands the chance to develop their e-reputation and visibility in new markets on an unprecedented scale. Using it to engage with consumers in their own language is the most effective way to rapidly generate new leads digitally.

However, because of its size and scope, it can be difficult for new companies to enter the WeChat universe. But once you are in it, as a new business you can sell, market your products, offer customer service and engage in promotions all on one single platform.

The first step is setting up an official service account, which will allow you to promote content, attract followers and link your account to a ‘mini site’ hosted within the WeChat app itself. Developing this Mini Site is essential for the presentation of company information, products, and services.

The app is fondly referred to as the ‘WeChat Times’ because so many Chinese people use it as source of information, and even treat it as a search engine. It is important to develop good Mandarin Chinese content that is aligned with your brand but tailored for the end user. Quality content can drive a lot of traffic to your account.

Chinese users who embrace capitalism as a popular philosophy, appreciate businesses that market themselves on WeChat and other social media platforms. ‘Social Commerce’ in China has taken off with a hub of innovation in this field. In China, social media has embraced e-commerce as a powerful ally.

Influencers or KOL’s (key opinion leaders) are another key element in the WeChat universe. These individuals have a large follower base and are regarded as an expert or authority on a particular subject. Recruiting KOL’s to represent your brand can be a powerful way to tap into large, engaged communities focused around a specific area of interest.

It is important to produce the correct content for a KOL, manage the promotion of the post and up-rank it for increased visibility. Users will often comment on the post asking for more information, and you cannot expect a KOL to be your customer service representative.

When done correctly, WeChat can become your most powerful business ally in China. But its digital ecosystem is a complex one, and you may want to consider partnering with a specialist to maximize the benefits of this platform for your company.

Woodburn Accountants & Advisors has setup it's own China Roadmap Community on WeChat. If you are interested in learning from others experiences, getting up-to-date news on China and updates on WB's publications and events, then connect to our Head of Business Advisory - Kristina Koehler-Coluccia- via her WeChat ID: kncoluccia. 
 

SEE YOU ALL ON WECHAT! 

DISCLAIMER: All information in this article is verified to the best of our ability and is assumed to be correct at time of release; however, Woodburn Accountants & Advisors does not accept responsibility for any losses arising from reliance on the information provided within. The information provided is for general guidance and does not replace specialized advice.

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