China, with its vast market potential, is back in business and inviting foreign companies to tap into its immense opportunities. In recent news, we witnessed influential figures like China’s Xi greets ‘old friend’ Bill Gates in first meeting with a US business magnate in years, Elon Musk, and Tim Cook being welcomed by Chinese leaders during their visits to the country. Regardless of differing geopolitical views, these successful entrepreneurs understand the undeniable significance of the Chinese market.
To succeed in China's dynamic business environment, establishing an online presence has become essential. One platform that stands out is WeChat, the nation's leading social media and messaging app. Companies seeking to make a lasting impact and effectively connect with Chinese consumers must have a WeChat Official Account.
Why is a WeChat Official Account vital for entering the Chinese market? Firstly, WeChat boasts over a billion monthly active users, making it a powerful tool for reaching a vast audience. With its diverse range of features, businesses can engage customers through content sharing, interactive promotions, e-commerce capabilities, and customer service functionalities.
Additionally, China's unique one-party policy allows for efficient implementation of incentives, streamlining business operations for foreign companies. By establishing a WeChat Official Account, you can leverage this advantage and benefit from China's business-friendly environment.
In recognition of China's economic potential, the Beijing Zhongguancun Embarks on '4.0' Era of Business Incubation (中关村) has extended an invitation to collaborate and visit their esteemed institution. This collaboration presents a remarkable opportunity to gain insights into China's market dynamics, build valuable connections, and explore avenues for growth.
To seize the limitless possibilities in China, it is imperative for companies to establish an online presence through a WeChat Official Account. By doing so, you can effectively resonate with Chinese consumers, expand your reach and establish a strong foothold in this thriving market.
Don't miss out on this chance to be part of China's resurgence. Reach out to us today to learn more about how a WeChat Official Account can unlock your business's success in China's burgeoning market.
Embrace China's business resurgence, establish your online presence with a WeChat Official Account and unlock the doors to limitless opportunities.
WeChat's ecosystem provides a range of digital solutions that are based on WeChat Pay, which serves as the entrance to the platform. The ecosystem integrates a range of digital tools such as Official Accounts, Mini Programs, WeChat Channels (video accounts), QR code scanning, WeChat groups and Moments, all of which have landing scenarios overseas. These tools can be used to create innovative solutions for various industries, including e-commerce, tourism, retail, F&B, education institutions etc.
Building a New Platform for Social E-Commerce
One of the key advantages of WeChat's ecosystem is that it enables enterprises to build a new platform for social e-commerce. This has effectively promoted the transformation of traditional retail into cross-border e-commerce and facilitated better connections between overseas brands and domestic users. For example, over the past two years, the number of active WeChat Mini Programs from Southeast Asian merchants has increased tenfold. This includes Big C, one of Thailand's largest supermarkets, and Wanjing Conservation Group, which operates tourist attractions such as Singapore's largest wildlife world and zoo.
In April 2021, the Korean street fashion brand, launched a WeChat Mini Program Mall, and in just a few months, the average monthly transaction volume of Mini Programs increased by nearly 40%. About 30% of customers continue to repurchase in the Mini Program. In October 2020, Japan Tsuruha Drug Express launched a cross-border e-commerce Mini Program, based on WeChat's ecological capabilities with social communication sharing as leverage, received 24% order conversion rate, 43% half-year repeat orders, and a sharing rate of 20%. Mini Program transactions increased by 200%, and successfully opened up new revenue channel during the epidemic.
Enriching Innovative Tourism and Promoting Chinese-style "Smart City" Projects to Go Overseas
WeChat's ecosystem can be used to enrich innovative tourism and promote Chinese-style "smart city" projects to go overseas. For example, Furano City Government of Japan reached a cooperation agreement with WeChat Pay at the end of 2020, allowing Chinese tourists to make ski resort reservation, ticket purchase, bus route inquiry, QR code recognition for riding through the Furano Mini Program.
The national railway operation departments of Switzerland and South Korea have also launched official ticket purchase via WeChat Mini Programs, which not only improve the efficiency and experience of Chinese tourists in purchasing tickets but also solve the pain points of language and information barriers. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands is also Europe's first WeChat Pay smart flagship airport, providing Chinese tourists with a faster overseas travel experience through full-platform ecological capabilities such as Mini Programs and WeChat Pay.
Helping Local Small and Medium-Sized Businesses in Digital Transformation
In the age of digitalization, businesses must adapt to keep up with the rapidly changing times. WeChat Marketing Development is one such digital solution that Singapore merchants can adopt to improve their businesses. WeChat has a large user base, making it an attractive platform for merchants to engage with their customers. In this article, we will explore several case studies of how WeChat has helped Singaporean businesses transform and thrive.
The first case study is Grab, the ride-hailing platform. Grab launched a Mini Program on WeChat, allowing WeChat users to request rides directly from 480 cities in eight Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore. This move was aimed at Chinese tourists who are unlikely to download additional apps during their travels. Mini Program has enabled Grab to offer a more convenient taxi service to Chinese tourists, further expanding their customer base.
Second case study is Mandai Conservation Group, which has used WeChat to enhance visitor experience at Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari. Visitors can purchase tickets and rent strollers through the WeChat Mini Program. Since launch, their Mini Program has attracted over 10,000 users and increased sevenfold on average monthly user base. The Mini Program complemented existing ticketing channels, providing a more convenient and seamless experience for visitors.
CapitaLand Mall is another Singapore's business that has leveraged on WeChat to offer convenient shopping experience to Chinese tourists. In 2019, CapitaLand Mall introduced WeChat Pay to its eight shopping centers. Today, CapitaMall's WeChat account has over 200,000 followers and was the first merchant in Singapore to try Mini Programs. After the launch of the Mini Program, offline transactions increased by 16.5%, and the number of Mini Program visits quadrupled in one year.
The fourth case study is Metro, a department store that launched a WeChat Mini Program during the pandemic to provide customers with a seamless online and offline omni-channel shopping experience. Metro's Mini Program was widely welcomed, demonstrating the importance of digital transformation in the retail industry.
Final case study is WeChat Pay's partnership with Singapore's hawker centers. WeChat Pay has connected to nearly 10,000 hawker restaurants in Singapore, providing customers with a fast, cashless, and zero-contact mobile payment experience. During the pandemic, WeChat Pay helped hawker centers increase the number of transactions and launched the "Singapore Food Check-in" activity to promote Singapore's food culture in conjunction with the Singapore Food Festival.
In conclusion, WeChat Marketing Development is a digital solution that can help Singapore businesses transform and thrive. The case studies above demonstrate how businesses in various industries have used WeChat to improve customer experience, increase transactions, and promote their brand. With WeChat's large user base (over 1 million mainland Chinese live in Singapore excluding tourist) and its suite of digital tools, Singapore merchants can engage with their customers more effectively and achieve business goals.
To know more on how can you leverage on WeChat for you business, contact email@example.com
WeChat search is a feature within the WeChat app that allows users to search for specific content, such as messages, contacts, articles, mini programs, and public accounts. Users can access WeChat search by tapping on the "Search" icon located on the app's under "Discover".
WeChat search uses a smart search algorithm that can recognize keywords in various formats, including text, voice, and image. This feature can be particularly useful for users who need to quickly find specific information within their WeChat conversations or explore new content on the platform.
Some common use cases for WeChat search include:
Finding messages or conversations with specific keywords
Searching for contacts by name or keyword
Discovering new Mini Programs or Official Accounts by searching for relevant keywords or categories
Looking up articles or news stories on WeChat's integrated search engine
Overall, WeChat search is a powerful feature that can help users navigate the platform more efficiently and discover new content. It's an essential tool for anyone who uses WeChat regularly and wants to make the most of its features.
Last November, Tianhong’s Junshang 3019sp@ce supermarket officially
upgraded to a WeChat payment smart retail store. The number of cashiers
reduced from 15-20 to only two on that day, most of which were replaced
by self-checkout machines.
consumers only need to open the WeChat “scan” function and scan the
product QR code price tag, and the products can be automatically added
to the shopping cart. Customers can even perform face recognition and
complete payment using machines provided.
In April 2018, Tianhong,
one of the major retailers in China, cooperated with Tencent to set up a
“smart retail lab” to jointly develop products for new retail. But this
is not their first cooperation.
In September 2013, Tianhong
reached strategic collaboration with Tencent. In the domestic retail
industry, Tianhong was the first company to cooperate with Tencent to
customize the WeChat service account.
As of now, Tianhong has
completed the digital transformation for most consumer scenarios. The
number of Tianhong members is over 18 million, of which the
digitalization ratio has reached more than 80%, and the number of
digital members is nearly 16 million.
According to the logic of
traditional retail, to get more customers, you need to open more
physical stores, which is not the best way for Tianhong at that time.
“Omnichannel” is the solution for Tianhong to expand the customer base
and achieve more customer connections, that is, the online and offline
The real beginning of the omnichannel business
is cooperation with WeChat. In September 2013, Tianhong and Tencent
reached a strategic partnership and jointly developed the first custom
WeChat service account in China’s retail enterprises, focusing on three
aspects which is instant service, selected service and interactive
cooperation immediately caused fluctuations in the capital market.
Since Tianhong and Tencent announced the collaboration, within ten days,
Tianhong share price experienced five single-day 10% increase, showing
full attention and recognition from the capital market.
consumer level, it took less than two years to go online, and Tianhong’s
WeChat service account has more than 2.5 million fans.
When Tianhong is attracting the new fans through WeChat, it also improves offline business by attracting consumers visiting the physical store. For example, less than two years after the launch, through the start of the WeChat service account, member interaction, and promotion, Tianhong WeChat service account has attracted more than 2 billion people to the physical stores.
Tianhong is a retail company that has started O2O
and mobile app very early. In the general perception, when offline
physical retail enterprises go through digital transformation, then a
large number of increments in sales shall come from the online orders,
which is the strategy practiced by Alibaba’s Hema.
However, the digitalization of the Tianhong is not the case. Although Tianhong also has an online business, the current order quantity is about 10% of the total. For the future, Tianhong also said that they do not expect a substantial increase in online orders. As Tan Xiaohua said, “The digitalization transformation of our business is to expand our existing powerful physical store, but not starting a new and smaller scale online business.”
A*STAR Science in Singapore asked us to teach their entire branding and marketing team. They want to know about how to use WeChat to attract top scientists and investment partnerships into Singapore. Warren Teh our CEO was more than happy to teach them how to use leverage this platform to achieve their KPIs. They were so happy that in the end they presented us with a intriguing science book that Warren's daughters will love.
Want to learn more how to get customers from China? Do you have run a marketing team and are quite blur to how you can use WeChat? Just drop us a line and we will be happy to get you up to speed.
Former LinkedIn China president Derek Shen said Monday that the
professional networking site has “lagged way behind” Tencent’s chat
platform WeChat, two years after stepping down from the company.
horrible that the LinkedIn product managers don’t even realize they
have lagged way behind a list of new social networking services such as
WeChat, feeling good about themselves instead,” said Shen
in a LinkedIn post on Monday. The former LinkedIn executive said that
he tried to improve the platform when he joined the company six years
ago, but struggled to make progress as it involved so many stakeholders
within the organization.
Shen’s posted his public gripe after he
was unable to message a newly added friend. He also said that the
company was prioritizing profits by prominently displaying features such
as friend recommendations while leaving out core features such as the
LinkedIn was not available for comment.
In a reference to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Shen added that LinkedIn should “target WeChat and try to catch up.” Zuckerberg said on Friday that he regretted not taking advice given four years ago to learn from WeChat, reported the South China Morning Post.
China’s professional networking market is dominated by domestic companies. According to Beijing-based research firm Sootoo Research (in Chinese), Alibaba’s Dingtalk is the most popular job connection
service for Chinese users beginning in the first half of 2018, with more
than 92.6 million downloads during the period.
Two other challengers, Maimai and Tongdao, the messaging platform for online jobs website Liepin, follow with 87 million and 18 million downloads, respectively. LinkedIn was not listed in the report, which ranked the top five professional networking apps.
Derek Shen announced his resignation from LinkedIn China in mid-2017, and immediately assumed his post as executive chairman for the shared housing startup Danke Apartment. The Beijing-based startup just raised $500 million in a Series C led by Alibaba’s fintech arm, Ant Financial, and US-based investment firm, Tiger Global Management.
Zuckerberg announced last week that Facebook planned to transform into a platform focused on private messaging
founder Mark Zuckerberg said he regretted not taking note of China’s
super-app WeChat sooner after his social media empire announced a shift
to private messaging last week amid a privacy crisis, in a move that
copies features of China’s dominant social media platform.
only I’d listened to your advice four years ago,” Zuckerberg wrote on
Facebook on Friday in response to Jessica Lessin, founder of tech media The Information, who highlighted a March 2015 article she wrote that suggested Facebook should learn from WeChat.
announced last week that Facebook planned to transform itself into a
privacy-focused platform. With a focus on private messaging, it would
“build more ways for people to interact on top of that, including calls,
video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and
ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services,”
according to Zuckerberg’s post on Thursday.
that respect, the future of Facebook resembles the reality of WeChat,
the ubiquitous Chinese super-app with over 1 billion users developed by
Tencent Holdings. WeChat’s omnipotence in China is centred around its
basic functions of messaging and social media, which are only open to
WeChat friends. But the app also offers a wide range of mini programs,
including digital payments, that enable users to shop, hail a taxi,
order food, pay utility bills and more.
Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facebook’s new direction is a good move but it will have to find a balance between its monetisation from advertising and keeping users on its platform, said Norman Hui, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Zhongtai International Securities.
has done a great job in redirecting its user traffic to its portfolio
companies such as e-commerce site JD.com and food delivery service
Meituan Dianping within the app, but Facebook would have to make huge
efforts to cultivate a similar behaviour among its users, who are now
used to leaving Facebook for Ebay or Amazon when they make a purchase.”
new vision for social media comes amid the ongoing public backlash
concerning the platform’s use of personal data. Zuckerberg acknowledged
the issue of data privacy in his post last week, saying the company
“[does not] currently have a strong reputation for building privacy
protective services” but it will “[implement] end-to-end encryption for
all private communications”.
end-to-end encryption, WeChat has been criticised for not doing enough
to protect user data. While Tencent claims that WeChat does not spy on
user conversations nor retain records, it said it would comply with any
law enforcement requests for user data. “We are very concerned about
user data security. It is top of our concerns. In a law enforcement
situation, of course, any company has to comply with the regulations and
laws within the country,” Tencent president Martin Lau Chi-ping said
as Facebook seeks to take a leaf out of WeChat’s book, the Chinese app
is already looking to the next phase of development to serve more
businesses as part of an industrial internet push.
With an increasingly saturated and competitive consumer market, Tencent revamped its organisational structure on the eve of its 20th anniversary last year to align more closely with enterprise users. In an open letter at the time, founder and chief executive chairman Pony Ma Huateng laid out the rationale for the restructuring, saying that digitisation of the economy meant the battle for the internet has moved from consumers to industry.
January, the Shenzhen-based Tencent took a big step in extending the
use of WeChat beyond smartphones with the introduction of a Siri-like
voice assistant that could potentially be deployed by businesses and in
italking, or Xiaowei in Chinese, works on devices from smart speakers
to cars by linking WeChat users with Tencent’s stable of services,
including QQ Music. Meituan Dianping, Didi Chuxing and Mobike, three
on-demand service providers that count Tencent as a strategic investor,
will also connect with Xiaowei.
first flagged the innovation last May when he said Tencent was working
on a voice-operated version of WeChat for in-vehicle use, a move that
could extend the platform’s content and services to millions of drivers
and passengers on the road. China is the world’s biggest auto market,
for both internal combustion engine cars and electric vehicles.
has also been providing artificial intelligence tools so that
businesses and industries can connect and serve their consumers on
WeChat, usually through the use of mini programs, which are applications
smaller than 10 megabytes that can run instantly on WeChat’s interface.
the education field WeChat has been partnering with public schools and
private training centres to enable students to make purchases at
canteens, check test scores, and do other functions on the app.
Tencent’s retail partners, including Walmart, let shoppers skip the
queues at the cash register by scanning the products and paying for them
on their WeChat app.
“We seemini programs as an important tool to empower merchants and brands in acquiring traffic at a lower cost through WeChat’s large social network,” said Jefferies equity analyst Karen Chan in an earlier report.
A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing. Photo: Reuters
Tencent has frequently added innovations to WeChat, designed to drive growth and loyalty, the latest being mini programs.
BEIJING — Many people outside China either still have not heard of WeChat or they think it's the country's equivalent of popular messaging service WhatsApp or social media giant Facebook. For many people in China, WeChat is much more – it is not an overstatement to say it's an indispensable part of their everyday lives.
WeChat, or Weixin as it's known in China, began life in a southern corner of the country at the Tencent Guangzhou Research and Project centre in October 2010. Since then, it has grown into the most popular mobile app in the country, with over one billion monthly active users who chat, play games, shop, read news, pay for meals and post their thoughts and pictures.
Today, you can even book a doctor's appointment or arrange a time slot to file for a divorce at the civil affairs authority.
The seven-year-old app has also laid the foundations for stellar growth at Shenzhen-based Tencent Holdings, the tech giant behind WeChat, turning it into one of the most influential companies in China and grabbing the attention of global investors.
Since the official launch of WeChat in January 2011, Tencent's market capitalisation has risen over tenfold.
Yet, the company has hit a speed bump. Tencent has lost 29 per cent since a peak of HK$476.6 (S$83.5) a share in January this year to trade at HK$336, erasing US$170 billion (S$234 billion) from its market value as of Wednesday's close.
Even before this sharp fall, some commentators had been asking whether Tencent has "lost its dream", by focusing on growth through investment rather than the type of organic innovation that led to the creation of WeChat.
After the market close on Wednesday, Tencent reported a 2 per cent drop in second-quarter profit on lower gaming revenue and investment-related gains.
Net income fell to 17.9 billion yuan (S$3.6 billion) in the quarter ended June 30, compared with the 19.3 billion yuan average of 12 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Sales were 73.7 billion yuan, missing analyst estimates.
Tencent's overseas counterpart Facebook, with 1.47 billion daily active users (DAU) and 2.23 billion monthly active users (MAU), experienced a stock price loss of over 20 per cent after announcing its slowest quarterly user growth since 2011 in its second quarter earnings report in July.
However, Tencent is still in the early stages of monetising its WeChat user base.
Cautious to avoid flooding user timelines with ads, WeChat currently allows a maximum of two ads a day to appear on its social platform Moments, which is "extremely conservative compared to our global peers", said Tencent's chief strategy officer James Gordon Mitchell in a May conference call with analysts.
"With improving targeting capability, opening up of inventory and roll-out of ad formats, we expect increasing dollar shift to social performance-based advertising, of which Tencent … should be the key beneficiary," Jefferies analyst Karen Chan wrote in a research note in July.
Other analysts are also optimistic on WeChat's prospects.
"WeChat's user numbers haven't hit the ceiling yet but I think they will at some point," said Mr Matthew Brennan, managing director of independent WeChat consultancy China Channel. "But they still have a lot of room to grow in advertising, and now with mini programs."
Mini programs refer to applications typically smaller than 10 megabytes that can run instantly on the main app's interface. They offer speed of access to users because a programme does not have to be downloaded from an app store, they can run from within the app.
This innovation allows platforms to host multiple services, turning them into super-apps, delivering greater convenience to consumers in the world's largest smartphone market.
Mini programs are aimed at keeping users within the WeChat ecosystem, at a time when short video apps are on the rise.
In June, the percentage of time spent on messaging apps among mobile users declined from 36 to 30.2 per cent compared to the same time last year, while time spent on short video apps rose from 2 to 8.8 per cent, according to figures provided by internet data services provider QuestMobile in July.
However, mini programs are just the latest in a long line of innovations at Tencent's WeChat.
When Tencent's flagship messaging service QQ was the dominant player in social media in China, Tencent founder, chairman and chief executive Ma Huateng (know as Pony Ma) did not rest on his laurels.
He spotted the inevitable shift in traffic from PCs to mobile internet in 2010, as smartphones led by Apple's iPhone, gained in popularity. Ma knew that a mobile instant messenger would be the key to the future.
Mr Allen Zhang, the head of QQ Mail Mobile in 2010, led a team with less than 10 members to develop the first version of WeChat in less than 70 days, beating out two other internal teams working on the same project.
Mr Zhang joined Tencent in 2005 when his Foxmail business was bought by Tencent and became the head of QQ Mail Mobile.
"WeChat is a strategically important platform for Tencent because it will help to sustain and evolve our social leadership from PC to newer mobile devices," Mr Martin Lau, president of Tencent, said in a conference call in 2011.
Tencent provided information about WeChat's latest developments but did not make executives, including Mr Zhang, available for interviews for this article.
The South China Morning Post reviewed conference call transcripts, filings, public speeches and local reports dating back to 2010 in researching the development of WeChat for this story.
The first version of WeChat only allowed users to send text messages and photos.
The launch received little response from the market, at a time when instant messengers such as Feixin, an SMS app by China Mobile, and MiTalk Messenger by Xiaomi, were already on the scene.
"It cannot send a short message to someone's phone number (like Feixin). It does not have the functionality of QQ. What's the meaning of having this app," one user wrote in the comments section on WeChat's iOS app store page seven years ago, rating WeChat one star.
The inflection point for the WeChat team arrived in May 2011 when it was updated with voice messaging, enabling a user's phone to work like a walkie-talkie. Daily user growth spurted from 10,000 to up to 60,000.
"The voice message function turned senior business people who weren't used to typing on smartphones into our WeChat users," Ma recalled in a speech in Tsinghua in 2016.
WeChat evolved quickly, including new functions such as 'Shake', which connected users who were randomly shaking their phone at the same time, and 'Message in a Bottle', which enabled messages to be sent to random users.
In July 2011, it added location-based service 'People Nearby' that allowed users to connect with strangers close to them. In Mr Zhang's words, this was a "game changer" and pushed daily user growth to 100,000.
"Shake and Message in a Bottle as well as People Nearby were born at the right time, offering access to different people," said Mr Lu Shushen, a former WeChat employee in an article on his WeChat account, referring to social networking among strangers.
By March 2012, WeChat had exceeded 100 million registered user accounts – just 433 days after launch.
WeChat users grew in tandem with smartphone growth in China. In 2010, when WeChat was still a research project, there were only 36.1 million smartphone unit sales in China. That number increased to 90.6 million in 2011 when WeChat was officially launched and had rocketed to 214.2 million by 2012.
But WeChat was growing even faster than this and was gradually leaving its competitors further behind. Feixin, for example, was reluctant to open up its messaging service to non-China Mobile users and MiTalk struggled to provide a stable user experience.
WhatsApp, WeChat's biggest overseas rival today, was available to the Chinese market at that time (it was later banned by China in 2017 ahead of a major Communist Party congress) but missed its opportunity without any localisation or promotion in the market, China Channel's Mr Brennan recalls.
WeChat was also evolving into a hybrid social network, with the introduction of its sharing service Moments, the blog-like Official Accounts to help brands and content producers market themselves, and a games publishing platform.
WeChat added payments to the platform in 2013, and for a while this was limited to paying for games, virtual items and services such as mobile subscriptions. But when 'Official Accounts' were added to WeChat in 2013, Tencent's management were hoping that this would transform WeChat into a full service platform.
Any WeChat user can set up an Official Account to broadcast messages and articles to their followers like a blog, but brands and service providers can also use these accounts to service customers.
Today, users can buy products, order meals or make a doctor's appointment – among many other things through this channel.
However, while WeChat Pay got off to a relatively slow start, the game was about to change in a major way.
Before the Lunar New Year of 2014, Tencent co-founder Tony Zhang assigned a WeChat team member to improve the way Tencent traditionally handed out hongbao – red envelopes with money inside as a gift for Lunar New Year – to staff.
As a result, the WeChat Red Packet was developed as a way to send "virtual" money to friends.
WeChat's Red Packet became an overnight sensation during the 2014 holiday period, with over eight million Chinese receiving over 40 million hongbaos during the period, leading Alibaba's founder Jack Ma to dub it the "attack on Pearl Harbour".
Users started to tie their bank accounts to their WeChat mobile wallet and it started to compete with Alipay – an already established mobile payments service from Alibaba Group Holding, parent of the South China Morning Post.
In 2018, 688 million people used WeChat's hongbao service on Lunar New Year's Eve.
Which brings the story back to WeChat's mini programs. By enabling greater functionality within the WeChat ecosystem without the need to download an external app, mini programs are aimed at driving customer loyalty, or stickiness, within the WeChat app.
"We view mini programs as an enhancement of our Official Accounts system, designed to connect offline service providers with users online," Tencent's Mr Lau said in 2017.
The concept of mini programs did not fully take off until January 2018 though when Tiao Yi Tiao, a jumping mini game, recorded 100 million daily active users after being launched in late December.
"We have had our ups and downs this year, but in general, I think we have met our initial expectations," said Tony Zhang in a January interview in the People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece.
By the second quarter of 2018, the number of WeChat mini programs reached one million and mini programme users surpassed 600 million in June this year.
"The mini programme initiative is opening many doors for Tencent," said China Channel's Mr Brennan.
"Monetisation due to adverts and payments … and by allowing Tencent to incubate and accelerate a variety of businesses within the ecosystem – e-commerce in particular."
Today, we’ll zoom in on some vital information to take note of if you are considering WeChat for business purposes.
1. Official Account: Service vs. Subscription accounts
To start off, you’ll need to create an Official Account, and unlike Facebook and Twitter where you can easily create a free account by yourself, there’s an application & verification process involved which takes up to 7 working days for approval. You’ll also need to choose between a Service or Subscription account (only available in China).
Service account If your brand is more product-centric, i.e. you are setting up an account with an objective to drive product sales, then Service Account is the way to go. A Service Account consists of business services such as mobile payments and other features such as user management capabilities.
Subscription account If your objective is towards driving brand awareness and less of selling, then you should be looking at a Subscription Account. A Subscription Account is very basic as compared to the Service account. With a Subscription Account, you can use it to post content and engage your followers.
Note: Unlike Facebook/Twitter where fans/followers can view your post on their timeline/news feed, WeChat houses all Subscription Accounts within a tab on the user’s home screen where users can actively choose to view the content. Thus the challenge is for brands to create content that is enticing enough for users to keep checking back proactively.
2. Use of mini sites as an alternative to websites
With China’s ultra strict internet censorship policy, it is highly possible that your website will either be blocked by the great firewall of China or, browsing speed is much slower due to the firewall. Thus the only way to circumvent these issues would be to build a localised website within China, but that process would require a lengthy application process.
In this case, it would be ideal to set up a mini site on WeChat itself, enabling users to access your company’s information as well as directing customers to content you’ve shared on WeChat.
3. Broadcasting updates with WeChat
Similar to Facebook/Twitter, brands can post updates such as articles, videos or photos to their followers. However, there’s a limit to the number of updates an official account can post.
Subscription Account: Once a day Service Account: 4 every month
4. WeChat Advertising
Like most popular social media networks, paid media is the most effective way to reach out to a substantial audience on WeChat. Here are its ad options:
a. WeChat Moments Similar to Facebook’s sponsored stories where an advertisement appears on a user’s Moments
b. WeChat Banner Banner ads will be featured within the article of a public account (Accounts of famous brands or celebrity)
c. How to start advertising with WeChat? Unlike Facebook and Twitter where you can immediately key in your credit card details and start advertising, you’ll first need to get in touch with a representative from Tencent, and there’s a minimal investment of US$20K to get started.
5. Engaging KOLs
One of the fastest ways to gain traction for your brand would be through Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) or Influencers. For this, you can either pay the influencers a fee to post a sponsored update or offer some form of barter trade.
Note: As WeChat does not reveal follower figures publicly, the only way to know the number of fans an influencer has is through back-end screen grabs (can be faked) thus you’ll need to be very careful when it comes to engaging such influencers.
6. WeChat’s Developer API
People in China use WeChat for just about anything from booking cabs to buying a cinema ticket, all these are made possible because of WeChat’s Developer API which developers can use to develop useful mobile applications within the WeChat platform.
7. Integrated Ecosystem for QR Codes
QR codes have failed to take off in most parts of the world; try running a QR code led activation in Singapore, and you will most probably meet people who are either clueless on how to scan the QR code or don’t have a QR code scanner. For most parts, people here don’t even bother with it.
However things are different in China, due to WeChat’s integrated ecosystem, it can ensure an optimal user experience when it comes to QR codes and because of that, people in China actually like scanning QR codes. Brands on WeChat can display QR codes at specific locations to increase their following and offer deals and discounts to their customers. It is also a norm for business people in China to include a QR code on their name card which leads to their WeChat account, so that is something you could consider too!