So, just to give a quick-background: WeChat was launched in China in 2011 and is often considered to be the benchmark for mobile messaging apps. It offers users an innovative, mobile lifestyle and business hub and its ease and convenience has led to its exponential growth and driven the trend for mobile payment.
A pioneer in ‘conversational commerce’, WeChat has pioneered the inclusion of chatbots, enabling brands to reach users in new and engaging ways, and drive revenue. WeChat’s data collection capability can provide marketers with highly sophisticated consumer targeting options across multiple verticals.
Moments is the app’s main feature. It enables users to post text-based updates, upload up to 9 images and share videos and articles.
WeChat has around 1.15b monthly active users (reported back in Q3 2019), making it the strongest in terms of engagement & retention of users.
There are many approaches to brand-building on WeChat
You can easily use Chinese influencers, ads & good old PR, in a digital manner:
- WOM: User referrals are vital to spreading marketing messages.
- Ads: Options for marketers include Account and Moment Ads.
- KOLs: Influencers earn commission on sales of products that they recommend.
Engagement Rates Vs. Follower Numbers
Intelligence, in partnership with ILTM China, brands must aim for WeChat posts to be opened, read and enjoyed by users – and not simply follower numbers. The study examined big marketing moments and found that successful campaigns that went viral had one thing in common: they were emotional, highly culturally relevant and based on solid consumer insight. For example, British Airways’ ‘Flying the Nest’ campaign tapped into family feelings with a video of a Chinese student from Chengdu who goes to college in London.Reuters – China Market Report (2019).
The report broke down the key characteristics of noteworthy campaign content:
- Aspirational: creating moments that let customers imagine their ideal self.
- Experiential: activating consumers with digital content to visiting a property or venue and taking part in something ‘real’.
- Inspirational: work that touches hearts and speaks to the greater good.
- Immersive: offers detailed guidance on deeper brand stories, product explanations, and provides extensive information.
- Engaging: syncs with WeChat’s functionalities to take users through a closed-loop from content to purchase.
WeChat extends your brand’s social messaging app presence in China in a market where Messenger & WhatsApp by Facebook are banned
WeChat is a key channel for global brands to drive equity and business results in China, whether used within a social media strategy, for influencer marketing or livestreaming. For example:
- McDonald’s successfully deployed a game on WeChat to show support for schoolchildren taking the Gaokao exam in China as part of a campaign to connect emotionally and drive McMuffin sales.
- To strengthen its emotional appeal, Hennessy launched ‘Find What Matters’, an event featuring Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and a cocktail truck showcasing new drinking scenarios where guests were encouraged to take a picture of their experience and share it on WeChat Moments.
- To launch its new KD9 product, Nike partnered with basketball game NBA2K Online with a competition to represent China head-to-head against basketball superstar Kevin Durant in a live broadcast on Tencent NBA and WeChat.
WeChat beyond being a smartphone app
WeChat, along with its collection of mini apps, is now used by over a billion people and is part of daily life for millions of Chinese consumers, who use it for everything from paying bills to ordering goods and services. Yet Tencent’s consumer-facing business, mainly gaming and social media, is seen by some as close to saturation, and faces increased government regulations as well as tough competition from rivals such as TikTok and Toutiao, owned by Bytedance. South China Morning Post reports that Tencent’s new Siri-like digital voice assistant, Xiaowei (or WeChat italking in English), could allow the WeChat app to expand beyond smartphone use and be deployed in smart cars, offering multiple uses for businesses.
WeChat helps brands with lower budgets
There is fierce international competition to attract an estimated 140 million Chinese outbound travellers, yet Tourism New Zealand has been punching above its weight by leveraging the targeting capabilities of WeChat.
Despite New Zealand’s marketing body having a much smaller budget than larger rivals, its mobile strategy for China is driving up interest and referrals across a range of metrics.
The organisation has generated a click-through rate of nearly 10% – more than double its nearest travel rival, according to Kieran O’Donnell, Tourism New Zealand’s North Asia regional marketing and communications manager.
Recognising that many Chinese consumers prefer to conduct plenty of research before committing to a purchase, the body also began using re-targeting prospective tourists to “help them through the process”.
Chinese audiences like being advertised to
Brands in China have benefitted from the dearth of data privacy laws and Chinese consumers do not appear to have the same cautious approach to personalisation as their Western counterparts.
As a result, WeChat marketers mine mass personal data and leverage insights to target audiences granularly with bespoke ads. WeChat segments its users dynamically, enabling millions of commercial ‘official accounts’ to serve different ‘WeChat advertising moments’ based on what consumers have previously read and responded to.
Given WeChat offers a broad spectrum of services, including a music download service, e-payments, and a host of leisure activities such as booking cinema tickets or ordering a mobile manicure, there is tremendous scope for cross-platform profile building.
WeChat mobile payments are what ‘cashless’ in our market is
Mobile payments have been normalised in China and developed cities are increasingly cashless; China’s mobile payments market is now 50 times larger than that of the US.
This has had a profound impact on the way that marketers connect with WeChat users, who have placed significant trust in mobile security. Since launching a partnership with WeChat-owner Tencent, coffee shop chain Starbucks has seen a 7% increase in revenues – with WeChat pay accounting for 29% of all purchases.
The payment method has been embraced by Millennials and young professionals in particular, due to its convenience, but it has permeated all aspects of life, changing everyday habits, from shopping for clothes to paying for utilities.
The opportunity lays for brands to understand and know how to communicate using the right tone of voice, language and audience. We know that AliPay and other Chinese payment systems, including WeChat payments are widely acceptable in the UAE and Malls like Mall of the Emirates & Dubai Mall have introduced Chinese-translated menus and Chinese speaking security personnel and even Chinese signboards guiding people across the mall with directions to shops and attractions.
So, don’t be afraid and invest in WeChat advertising, it is an extension of your brands where other digital platforms, including Google – can’t be accessed in China legally.