How WeChat is taking over the world

WeChat has been rapidly expanding across the globe, including into Western markets.

WeChat has quite certainly made its mark, setting an example of the vast potential that messaging platforms hold. With over a billion daily active users, WeChat is a robust platform which goes beyond just messaging.

But how has WeChat managed to set the pace for rival platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp?

Behind the success of WeChat

WeChat has seen such great success in China because it is quite literally a one-stop platform which allows users to do anything from connect with friends and family, keep up-to-date on the latest news, engage with one’s favourite brands, as well as pay for a myriad of goods and services. This is a stark contrast to popular platforms in the West, and even the rest of Asia, where users are required to use multiple platforms to fulfil different needs.

Perhaps the most important factor in WeChat’s success lies in is its innovative nature, simplifying just about every aspect of our daily lives. Given that Chinese users spend approximately a third of their time on their mobiles on WeChat, this presented a huge opportunity to build extra features and functionalities – known as mini programs – on top of the basic messaging experience.

These mini programs run seamlessly on the main WeChat interface, allowing the platform to host multiple services and thus deliver greater convenience to its users. Aimed at keeping users within the WeChat ecosystem, these mini programs have helped WeChat establish dominance, making it next to impossible for users to abandon the platform.

What this means for brands

The golden rule for brands is to know where your audiences are present. This means that advertisers, brands and publishers need to start looking at how they can tap on the WeChat network to reach and engage with their target audiences. 

While WeChat was predominantly used by Chinese brands in the past, foreign brands have also started tapping on the massive platform to establish a presence in China. In 2018, WeChat rolled out a new feature named the Brand Zone which allowed brands to display branded content on the platform. Early adopters of this feature included luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Montblanc and Cartier. Fast forward to today, brands across all industries are utilising this tool, given its wide reach and pervasiveness.

More recently, WeChat has been rapidly expanding across the globe, including into Western markets such as Europe and the US. For instance, we have seen  BNP Paribas launch WeChat Pay for users Europe, and  Wirecard partnering with WeChat to allow European retailers to accept WeChat pay as a payment option.

As such, it will come as no surprise if we see WeChat growing exponentially outside of China if it is able to offer features that simplify the lives of users in Europe and the US.

How brands are leveraging WeChat

With a multitude of features available on this all-encompassing platform, it can be tricky to choose the most appropriate one. Marketers should, therefore, consider the various tools that would enable them to achieve their intended business objectives.

Here are some best practices brands can employ when leveraging WeChat

Brands with an e-commerce offering can tap on WeChat’s location-based service to provide users with a better and more personalised shopping experience. For instance, Watsons, the largest personal care store in Asia, used this function to notify users of promotions and provide directions to the nearest Watson’s store to redeem special offers.

Another key feature available on WeChat is its in-built QR code reader, which can help to bridge the online and offline experience for users. Coca-Cola has set an example in this space with its Lyric Bottle campaign. The beverage giant drove user engagement on WeChat where QR-code scanning directed users to a microsite where users could unlock musical emoticons called “musicons” that could then be shared with friends or through WeChat’s Moments feed.

Brands looking for more traditional methods of advertising on the platform can turn to WeChat Moments. Similar to Facebook and Instagram, brands can advertise within users’ news feed, leveraging various advertising formats and calls to action which deliver better user interactions.

Key takeaways

WeChat has built its success in integrating its way into its users’ daily lives. It is a primarily a messaging platform, but it is so much more than that and demonstrates what a great user experience could be for other platforms.

With digitalisation set to ramp up in the region, WeChat has the indisputable power for brands to reach a wide, active audience base. It is interesting to see how WeChat has grown to its existing scale in a matter of several years and one thing is clear – WeChat is set to disrupt the Western world.

Charles Tidswell is the vice president of Japan and Asia Pacific at Socialbakers

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