It turned six years old on January 21, 2017. And it already boasts more than 850 million monthly active users, almost three times the entire population of the United States of America. WeChat, known on the mainland as “Weixin” – and owned by China´s internet giant Tencent – has evolved from the Middle Kingdom´s most popular messaging app into a super-app that easily qualifies for the busiest digital Autobahn on the planet. 94 percent of its users log on daily. For them, WeChat is much more than just a social platform. It has become a way of life. Here, you can collaborate, socialize, conduct e-commerce, order dumplings for delivery, make hospital appointments, or simply pay your bills. WeChat lets users order food, book hotels, search, buy brands and extensively shop online.
With its popular Wallet feature – which is linked to third party providers´ web apps – it offers easy payment. Thanks to its integrated payment function WeChat has almost managed to make credit card payment in China obsolete. The service illustrates how China is shaping the future of the mobile internet. In China, half of all sales over the internet take place via mobile phones. And more than a third of the overall time the Chinese spend on the mobile internet is on WeChat.
More traffic than China telecoms
At the end of 2016, calls on WeChat even beat the traffic registered by China´s telecom companies. And WeChat already carries out more transactions than Paypal. WeChat has also become an all-encompassing browser for mobile websites. Retailers, banks and fashion brands have rushed to open up a digital presence on the giant platform, which was dubbed a “smartphone Swiss army knife” by “qz”, a digitally native news outlet for business people. Having gained such an incredible traction and reach, WeChat has undisputedly become the “most important channel for marketers in China.”
With its popularity among young professionals, WeChat is even considered to be the default platform for work communication. Users started more than 100 million voice and video calls every day via WeChat in 2016. The rapid growth of the mega app is fueled by the introduction of a 4G network, the proliferation of wireless connections and the rising middle class in the country.
Luxury Daily, the world´s leading luxury business publication, has declared WeChat “Chinese consumers´ main platform to control almost everything in their lives.” No wonder that WeChat is now much more effective than television advertising. TV spots are seeing 26 percent less engagement than WeChat initiatives, according to Luxury Daily, and social influencers stay with the platform since its campaigns “see four times the number of views than campaigns coming directly from brands.”
Missing out on WeChat may harm your brand
Almost all beauty brands and nine out of ten jewelry manufacturers communicate with consumers via WeChat. Missing out on this platform is now detrimental to a brand´s business in China.
In order to constantly expand its business, WeChat has evolved into a very innovative corporation. With its recently introduced “mini-apps”, WeChat is about to revolutionize the app industry because users will not need to install their apps any more. WeChat aims at replacing all other apps on its users´ smartphones and allow them to stay within the WeChat orbit all the time without the need to leave it. According to the Financial Times, the mini-apps help WeChat to become “the first big platform to provide an alternative to the App Store from Apple.”
28 red envelopes every month
Half of the active WeChat users spend more than 90 minutes on the platform every day. A typical user is described by parent company Tencent as being in his or her 20s and 30s. On average they spend 65 minutes per month on WeChat-enabled calls. The millennials on WeChat account for 65 percent of the overall users and 80 percent of total messages. A typical user on WeChat sends 74 messages per day, walks 5,900 steps and launches on average 28 “red envelopes” on the app every month.
The value WeChat offers to its users is obvious. They can move within one orbit and still do all their important business. They can sail within their own cosmos and use a de facto operating system. Companies and brands on the other hand can effectively communicate through their official WeChat accounts, share content, interact and accompany their customers through all phases of their digital journey. A recent study found that more than 52 percent of internet users in China are accessing WeChat official accounts in order to keep up with the latest news. At the end of 2016, there were more than 12 million WeChat official accounts, an increase of almost 50 percent over 2015.
Precious “Moments” for brands
In the second half of 2015, Tencent opened its “WeChat Moments Program” to all advertisers. The aim is to give brands 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. Advertisers who turn to “Moments” can see the brand name, a profile picture, text of up to 40 characters, and an extra link to an html5 webpage hosted within the WeChat platform with up to six pictures. In 2017, WeChat will also introduce self-service ads on “Moments.”
Digital success stories
German companies seem to appreciate their presence on WeChat. In 2016, fashion brand Hugo Boss launched a virtual shopping experience on WeChat, called “Your Time to Shine.” The corporation introduced a set of new brand ambassadors called “Bossbots.” The interactive campaign invited users to explore a virtual Hugo Boss boutique. Every time they discovered Bossbot parts, they were able to unveil a part of the collection.
Starbucks in China has started a strategic partnership with WeChat in order to drive revenue in the country. The American coffeehouse chain offers users to instantly gift Starbucks to a friend. They can also use WeChat Pay to purchase coffee at the 2,500 stores of the company in China. Starbucks wants to triple its revenue in China over the next five years. It is targeting younger consumer aged 18 to 35 who are the main users of WeChat. CEO Howard Schultz expects profits in China to eventually exceed those in the United States.
French fashion giant Christian Dior recently offered its followers on WeChat to purchase a limited-edition handbag simply through a post. This way Dior has become the first luxury house, according to Luxury Daily, to “sell a high-end handbag through the app.”
In early 2015, BMW launched the first-ever ad to appear on the WeChat Moments page of selected users. According to a BMW spokesman, the campaign reached 46 million WeChat users during the first 17 hours and 7 million of them have responded to the ad. Moreover, 200,000 followers were added to BMW’s official WeChat account. There was uproar in the country because thousands of people demanded to know why they had not been targeted by the highly successful ad.
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