/Doing business in China?
We need to talk about WeChat

There are over 800 million smartphone owners in China, and 94% of them are using an app that’s essentially Facebook, WhatsApp, Spotify, Tinder, Kindle and ApplePay all rolled into one.  

And after several years of helping our Clients break into the market from our offices across Asia, one of the things we can say for certain is this.

If you want your digital marketing to do well in China, you need to know about WeChat.

Luckily we have a resident expert. We asked Retainna Lin Yi Yi, working with us in Devon on exchange from Bray Leino Asia’s Shanghai office, to explain.

What is it?

WeChat is a mobile application that has grown out of a simple messaging service. Today it allows users to complete an ever-growing list of daily tasks: ordering a taxi, sharing photos or ‘moments’, finding a date, paying bills, shopping or making a mobile payment.

The preconceptions many Westerners hold about mobile hold less sway among China’s 800 million+ mobile users. Most people in China skipped the personal computer and laptop eras and went straight to smartphones.

That’s one of the reasons WeChat has achieved its incredible penetration rate amongst Chinese mobile Internet users. Embedded into people’s daily lives, it’s grown beyond a chat app, into the must-have utility for almost everything.

Almost two thirds of WeChat users open WeChat more than 10 times a day, and 36% of users open it more than 30 times per day. These numbers make it a very useful marketing channel.

How do I get on WeChat?

WeChat offers ‘Official Accounts’ for brands, similar to Facebook’s Page feature. They can be used to promote brand awareness, connect with users in a number of targeted ways, publish content, or launch integrated campaigns.

It’s important to note that to market through WeChat in China, you need a Chinese account, which is only obtainable if you have licensed business operations inside the country.

If you’re not in China, you’ll get a WeChat international account, which won’t reach users in China, but can be used to market to the 100 million+ users over 200 other countries.

It’s free to set-up any type of official account. However, official verification is recommended to give your account credibility, and will cost RMB300 (£35) per year.

There are two types of WeChat Official Accounts:

  • Subscription accounts: Essentially an official fan page account. Users subscribe to receive updates, up to one a day, which appear in their subscription accounts folder.
  • Service accounts: Allow up to four content broadcasts a month, which appear in users’ main friend chat panel. Once verified, service accounts also allow brands to set up WeChat ecommerce payment function.

Here’s a further breakdown of the accounts and their functionality.

Which account is best for my brand?

Service accounts, with their once a week main chat feed broadcasts, are more effective if two-way communication, campaigns or social selling are part of your objectives.

Subscription accounts allow brands to publish one article per day, but the content doesn’t appear in the main content feed like a service account. It goes straight into users’ subscription accounts folder. However, for brands with a large amount of news or thought leadership content to share, this is the best way to reach WeChat users.

A subscriptions account can always be upgraded to a service account, but it’s worth noting that the change cannot be made the other way.

There are pros and cons for each type of official account, so it depends on your requirements. If you have a large quantity of content to share, a Subscription Account is the better choice. If you want to set up ecommerce and boost awareness by ensuring your brand’s logo appears on the first level of WeChat’s chatting panel, then you’ll want a Service Account.

How do I use it?

The diverse functions WeChat offers have led to some interesting uses of the platform by brands; employing microsites, interactive campaigns, ecommerce, in-store and mobile payments, location services, online-to-offline and vice-versa… and more.

Here are ten examples of WeChat successful marketing campaigns.

WeChat provides a convenient and fast way for brands to reach out to their audience, which is why if you’re looking to do business in China, you need it in your repertoire.


Retainna Lin Yi Yi

Retainna Lin is currently part of our Devon team, on exchange from Bray Leino Asia’s Shanghai office.




Bray Leino Asia also has offices in Singapore Malaysia, Hong Kong and Vietnam. To find out more about how we can help your business navigate digital marketing in Asia, contact Sam Crocker.