Within China, almost 50% of Chinese netizens describe WeChat as their ‘number one’ app. Meanwhile it is amongst the fastest growing communication tools worldwide. It now boasts over 1.2 billion monthly active users globally. However, those familiar with China recognise that WeChat is now much more than the instant messaging tool Tencent launched back in 2011.
Nowadays, WeChat is commonly described as a ‘swiss-army’ app. In fact, for the everyday Chinese consumer, WeChat can support most facets of their everyday life. Its native app doubles as the user’s wallet, ID, train-ticket, grocery store, taxi/transport-booking service, customer support portal and much more. You can now evenYou can now even apply for a divorce over the platform.
There are literally countless ways your business can leverage WeChat. Cutting through the fat might seem a little daunting at first. Fortunately though, our team has trialled many of them, so you don’t have to.
Today we’ll explore some of the basic, foundational tools and initiatives you’ll need in order to develop an engaging account. These are the tools and learnings we apply to drive ROI for our eCommerce sales strategies.
If your business operates in China’s B2C space, groups are one of the most important tools you can leverage. If you’re building a group from scratch, start with just your Chinese team members. Have a back-and-forth discussion about the product and the brand. Share promotional materials, links, videos, pictures and Tmall links. This ‘disarms’ prospective leads who may be on the fence about joining your group. If the discussion appears engaging and there are good incentives (i.e. coupons & discounts visibly on offer), you’re in good stead.
Free gifts and coupons are a great way to incentivise your existing eCommerce customers to join your WeChat groups. They’re also a great way to enhance engagement within the group. One of our favourite promotions to run surrounds ‘red packets’, or hóngbāo (红包). Where if a group member opens the hóngbāo, they receive a randomised proportion of the total value (See screenshot left). Whoever receives the most or the least amount of money wins a free gift. Interestingly, group members are usually delighted, even if they only receive ¥0.1.
One of the more powerful uses of WeChat Groups, however, is for social listening in a non-public forum. Encouraging the sharing of positive and negative experiences helps you to identify ways you can improve your product or service.
There’s a growing saying in China: “Your company’s WeChat is effectively your China website”. Thankfully, WeChat supports simple, customisable ‘microsites’ which can be easily embedded into the user interface of your account. These sites can be as simple or as complex as you like.
In the example left, Strongbow Cider created an interactive HTML5 widget to serve both educational and promotional purposes. Once the widget is loaded, the user is invited to shake their phone. This triggers apples to drop into a blender, before the user is taken on a journey through the cider manufacturing process. At the end of the interactive experience, you’re left admiring Strongbow’s ‘award-winning’ ciders. These are accompanied with calls-to-action beckoning the user towards their eCommerce stores.
Having an interactive and engaging WeChat account is paramount, particularly for companies engaging in New Retail. For example, in JD.com’s 7Fresh supermarkets, most items host QR codes linking the customer directly to the relevant brand’s WeChat account. This supports a range of functions, including product and brand research, track and traceability, interactive Offline-to-Online campaigns, sales promotions etc.
Anyone who has spent any time in China will be familiar with the sense of ‘bombardment’ you receive from WeChat notifications. As such, a ‘less is more’ approach works quite well for most categories. In order to maximise engagement, you’ll want to post a variety of content aiming to enrich your customers’ lifestyles. In our experience, content with benefits-oriented and emotive headlines tend to draw the most engagement.
There are three major ways to integrate eCommerce functionality into your WeChat:
The launch of WeChat mini programs in 2017 revolutionised too many industries to count. Companies could now develop entirely customisable stores/programs/apps sitting seamlessly inside their WeChat user experience.
Mini Programs spawned a social-commerce revolution, in which existing customers play a deeper role in acquiring new customers. As an example, Pinduoduo’s ‘group-buy’ function relies heavily on WeChat. If you like an item and you want to take advantage of a 40% discount, you can take to WeChat to round up 3-5 buddies, then purchase as a ‘group’. As a result, roughly 65% of Pinduoduo’s annual transactions are cleared via their WeChat Mini program. Today, it is estimated that Mini Programs support over 1.2 billion daily transactions.
They’re also enabling brands to establish loyalty programs and leverage ‘gamification’. Businesses such as Starbucks and Coffee Box are creative interactive social/eCommerce/gaming experiences to create deeper, engaging and addictive experiences for their customers.
In a market of WeChat ubiquity, many customers prefer to speak directly with you via the platform they’re most comfortable using. The easiest way to do this is to send a follow-up message to customers via the platform in which they placed the order*.
Once you’ve connected with your customers, offer them incentives to provide good reviews. Free gifts and coupons are always welcomed. In the sample flyer on the left, we encourage our new Nuria customers to add our Customer Service team on WeChat via scanning the QR code. By messaging a specific code-phrase to us, the customer then receives a free gift.
* Note: This must be managed sensitively. Alibaba-affiliated eCommerce platforms do not tolerate promotion for Tencent-related businesses via their platform.