For users in Mainland China WeChat is not a social app. It’s a social ecosystem. Established as recently as 2011, by tech giant Tencent, the super-app has already managed to make itself inextricable to daily life. It’s now virtually impossible to function in China without it.
WeChat is like a firewall within China’s firewall. Pretty much every citizen in China uses the app for most functions of daily life. Aka they rarely leave the WeChat bubble. And so, if you want to penetrate the Chinese market, you need to be on WeChat.
WeChat – The Chinese Super App
WeChat is often referred to in the west as a messaging app. And sure, when a user opens the app in any other language it works that way. But for Chinese speaking users… Weixin (WeChat to you folks at home) is a rabbit hole.
What makes this app so unique (and formidable) is that it captures all app functionalities in one. It’s the Swiss Army Knife of the app world.
From messaging, playing games, social media posting, reading the news, internet searches, online dating, ordering cabs, shopping on and offline, booking doctor’s appointments, paying bills, paying your taxes, filing for divorce… we could go on and on here… WeChat is the one-stop everything app.
And then, for those bases not yet covered, there’s its revolutionary mini-programs function. WeChat is built in a way that it allows other developers to slot their own apps directly into the platform.
And so, the super-app becomes more super – embedding a constant stream of new services and features onto their platform. Without Tencent’s internal developers having to lift a finger!
New players enthusiastically get on board with the program in order to take advantage of WeChat’s strong network effect. Meanwhile, WeChat gets swallow its competitors while, simultaneously, offering their products to ensure users never have to leave the app.
So, for the foreseeable future, WeChat’s market dominance in Mainland China won’t be waning anytime soon.
WeChat’s Marketing Might
Now WeChat’s success story in China is courtesy of a few factors, namely:
- China is guarded by a firewall. Aka app options are… limited.
- WeChat gets to play courtesy of opening itself to government censorship.
- WeChat is an innovation sensation, swiss army knife of a super-app.
Put it all together and the app is inexorably linked to every aspect of social, informational, commercial, and increasingly political life in China. WeChat has over a billion monthly users (90% of which are Chinese), with another 94% logging into the app daily.
So…. safe to say that nearly everyone in China uses it a lot. And almost exclusively. Then add to this the fact that WeChat’s market penetration in China is currently sitting at 80%.
Ultimately, WeChat is the single most powerful platform to connect with Chinese speaking audiences. WeChat has streamlined the marketing dilemma of “which platform?” Your audience is there. You just need to be there too.
Leveraging WeChat’s Marketing Power
Now, if you want to break into China’s lucrative online market you need to set up a WeChat Official Account. This is essentially a mini website (with prime real estate) that allows businesses to distribute brand information, posts, videos, photos and infographics.
Unfortunately, setting up a business account is a pretty complicated process courtesy of the Chinese Government. And you’ll want to set it up correctly for success.
Okay… now assuming you’re WeChat account has been (rapidly) set up since the last paragraph. There are a few important things you need to know before you get marketing. Namely – WeChat has a marketing complex. Or an anti-marketing complex…
The business model and set up of app isn’t particularly advertorial. In fact, Tencent only makes 19% of its revenue from advertising. And, when you compare this to Facebook’s whopping 95% advertising revenue, it’s clear things work a tad differently.
WeChat Marketing 101
The vast majority of WeChat’s revenue comes from ‘Value Added Services’. And time and again users rank “useful” information as being #1 on their priority list. So, your marketing should prioritise this.
The most obvious and simple ways of doing this is ensuring your brand’s posting high-quality media content with audio messages, videos, photos and text that adds value for your existing and prospective followers.
And another important aspect to remember (on any platform) is that everyone is not your customer. So, tailor your content in a way that it embodies the lifestyle and values of your target audience.
But beyond the universal rule of thumb to invest in engaging content, there’s a few things you can add to your “usefulness” action plan:
1) Get Local
In the eyes of WeChat – the more localised, the more relevant, the more valuable. And location targeting with WeChat service accounts is a great way for delivering highly localised valuable content to users. So, use this to your advantage and tailor content to the relevant audiences of a specific location.
2) Use QR Codes
Each WeChat Official Account has its own QR code. So, you can and should customise your QR code to match your brand image. Embed a QR Code (linked to your account) in as many places as possible; product packaging, brochures, stores, and other marketing channels. Then moment someone scans the QR Code, they become a member and follower of all the shared content.
And beyond that, it’s critical that you ensure you enable QR code payments online and offline (Chinese tourists exist after all). You can create different QR codes for different products which allow you to take users straight to the checkout for the relevant product. Simpler purchase journeys equal less cart drop-offs!
Not to mention, by putting individualised QR Codes on on/offline products you can entice consumers to scan it with promotions, discounts, and lucky draws.
3) Use Influencers
WeChat advertising is quite new, and it tends to be greeted with aversion. Conversely, KOL (Key Opinion Leader) marketing is well established. Many KOLs are considered experts in their field as they produce informative and reliable product reviews. So, no surprises here that endorsement from these trusted “sources” dramatically boosts conversion rates on WeChat.
And the even better news is that KOLs tend to charge on commission. Aka you can pay based on performance! And this can be tracked accurately by giving them a unique QR tracking code. So, no more wasted expenses which means any company (no matter how limited a budget) is able to play. If you make sales, you can pay. And if you don’t… you don’t have to. It’s that simple.
Now beyond adding value in all kinds of wondrous ways – WeChat does have advertising options. Albeit limited – CPC and CPM campaigns are available, however traffic is a tad questionable given the sub-standard targeting parameters of WeChat. But you’ll have to take what you can get.
1) Viral Campaigns
These are exactly what they sound like – creative campaigns designed to be shared among users by social impulse or financial incentive. And these tend to work best when operating in lieu with WeChat Moments or KOL advertising.
2) WeChat Moments
These are the equivalent of Facebook Ads and also allow user targeting. However, companies registered outside of Mainland China need to be willing to invest $1,500-$8,000USD. So, if you can pay, you can play.
These “moments” can contain your brand name, profile picture and a 40-character (max) ad description. You can link to your html5 brand page and include up to 6 pictures or a 6-15 second video.
3) WeChat Banners
WeChat Banner Ads are displayed at the bottom of a WeChat article written by another WeChat Official Account. And, no, unfortunately you can’t choose which account they’re displayed on. Yep, like we said, targeted advertising options are limited.
The add banner can contain your logo, account name, and a headline that acts as a CTA to take users to a page containing more information about your brand and/or product.
But a word of warning – standard WeChat Banner Ads have notoriously low performance ratings. Majority of users just don’t click. And, again, the targeting features are quite rough. Still… it’s one of the most transparent ways of growing your followers with a predictable ROI.
And this is semi-decent news for some – WeChat offers a 92% ROI for luxury brands, making it one of the most profitable channels that your company can invest in.
The WeChat show isn’t just playing out in China anymore. As its footprint and influence grow in Australia, forward-thinking brands need to consider how WeChat can and should fit into their holistic marketing strategy.
WeChat the single most powerful platform to connect with Chinese speaking audiences. Pretty much every citizen in China uses the app for most functions of daily life. And the platform is the single most effective way to penetrate the Chinese market.
And as for domestic markets in Australia – more than 1 million Chinese tourists visit Australia annually. Which makes WeChat’s payment features (among others) particularly relevant for Australian businesses. Insofar, more than 10,000 Australian retail locations support WeChat payment. And counting. Rapidly.
So, if you want to break into China’s lucrative online and tourist market you will have to set up a WeChat Official Account. And make your marketing count.