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Whatever happens to Elon Musk’s X, ‘everything apps’ are the future – just ask WeChat

By Junjie Wei, Strategist

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January 9, 2024 | 8 min read

True Digital’s Junjie Wei takes a hard look at how the world’s leading super app, WeChat, is already facilitating game-changing work for brands like Nescafé and Calvin Klein. But can the West catch up?

A person's hand, scrolling on the homescreen of a smart phone

All your apps, in one: a dream for Musk and Zuckerberg, but a reality in China with WeChat? / Rob Hampson via Unsplash

Elon Musk’s 2023 rebranding of Twitter to X may not have fully caught on, with a lot of us still attached to the bird-app branding. But it reflects Musk’s ambition for an ‘everything app’, one which integrates all types of communications, and the financial world, into one platform.

Such a dream also belongs to leaders of Meta and Microsoft.

But the one-stop app that they’re chasing already exists, in Asian countries. WeChat in China is, undoubtedly, the most successful.

WeChat leads the way

WeChat is a super app where users access a wide range of services in a single place, from social media to services like you’d find on Uber, Deliveroo, Booking.com, and Amazon.

Mini programs are vital in realizing this versatile functionality. These are all lightweight apps with no need to install, allowing users to watch live streaming, buy clothes, order food deliveries, book a taxi, and pay bills.

These native, smaller apps, along with e-commerce and communication features, create a dynamic ecosystem where users socialize and purchase all in one place. According to some estimates, around 80% of China’s population engages with WeChat monthly, with mini-programs generating transactional data for WeChat mini-programs in 2021 of 2.7tn RMB (approximately £303bn or $386bn).

This massive user base and immense commercial potential have prompted brands to build and develop their presence on the app.

The ‘Cup of Respect’ campaign by Nescafé is a leading example of WeChat’s capabilities. The brand created an interactive mini-program game within its brand hub to educate customers about its sustainability efforts. Customers redeemed credits earned inside the game for coupons and converted them into real-world trees, planted by Nescafé. This gamification, bolstered by films, posters, articles and influencer partnerships, accomplished millions of impressions and engagements in just one month, according to agency partner Ogilvy.

Participants who took part in gaming activities, credit redemption, or registration for pop-up events had their data seamlessly integrated into Nescafé's CRM system. This integration proved pivotal when these interactions translated into purchase intentions.

Users did not have to switch to another e-commerce application or manually input payment details, thanks to WeChat’s payment and e-commerce functionalities. Beyond serving as platforms for engagement, these mini-programs enable a smoother purchasing journey and facilitate a crucial role in data collection, catalyzing e-commerce conversions.

The key pillars of the everything app

WeChat's key pillars (enclosed networks, interactive communications, e-commerce) enable brands to achieve their goals in an integrated, frictionless way. Consumers enjoy a seamless digital experience, customized to their needs, without the hassle of switching apps or searching across sites. Brands have consistent exposure across the path to purchase and, more importantly, can improve their offerings with all types of consumer data. That brings us to a second example, where Calvin Klein used these features to develop successful consumer-centric marketing approaches.

The brand built an all-in-one portal for members where customers manage online and offline accounts. Besides reward and purchase history review (online and in-store), members could participate in brand activities, book appointments, and redeem member benefits via bar code at stores. The portal was also connected to the brand's e-commerce and community mini-programs. All of this was tracked via a CRM system, making customer data easily accessible to help improve customer lifetime value.

Calvin Klein also relied on WeChat Work to provide individualized services. This feature, like Slack, enabled internal and external communication. In this way, the brand maintained comprehensive control over the entire customer lifecycle, overseeing, optimizing, and managing both online and offline aspects seamlessly in one centralized location.

These combined approaches saw Calvin Klein reporting a 53% increase in new member acquisition and 22% growth in sales from members since launch.

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Can the West expect super apps soon?

The concept of a super app, as pursued by Musk and Zuckerberg, promises significant benefits for both consumers and brands. Consumers can manage almost every aspect of their lives in just a few clicks, while brands can enhance marketing effectiveness alongside comprehensive customer insights, placing early adopters at a significant advantage, with access to transactional data, online and offline behavioral data, and personal information all in one place.

So, how long before a super-app appears on our screens? With the Meta and Amazon shopping partnership announcement at the end of last year, it may not be as far off as skeptics first thought.

Agency Leadership Social Media Technology

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