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

With Brexit on the horizon, many of the UK businesses we work with are beginning to look East for international growth opportunities.

There’s a platform that’s used by 94% of China’s smartphone owners; an app that combines the functionality of Facebook, WhatsApp, Spotify, Tinder, Kindle and ApplePay into one platform.

Interestingly, this platform has plans to become a gateway into China for European businesses.

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 began as an instant messaging app, but 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.

It’s achieved incredible penetration 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.

This extends into business. Many professionals in mainland China turn to WeChat rather than email to conduct business, taking advantage of features like free video calling, business-specific chat service and large file-sharing.

Two thirds of WeChat users open the app more than 10 times a day, and 36% open it more than 30 times per day.

How do I start?

WeChat offers ‘Official Accounts’ for businesses, 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 free to set-up any type of official WeChat 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 me?

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.

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.

Can WeChat get me into China?

Currently, if you’re not in China and don’t have a Chinese business license, WeChat will give you an International account. This won’t let you reach users in China, but can be used to market to the 70 million+ users over 200 other countries across Asia and the rest of the world.

However, WeChat recently announced plans to open its eccommerce and payments platform to European retail businesses, beginning in the UK, France and Germany. WeChat’s owner, Tenecet, has launched a programme to allow businesses to operate only through WeChat, bypassing the Chinese business license application process.

A low-friction gateway into China, reducing the bureaucracy businesses would otherwise face when going through traditional routes. It could be huge.

HOw do i use it for marketing?

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.

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