You are a small brand and you want to operate in China? You have to know Wechat and its functionalities to get the most of the number one social platform in China. WeChat is the Chinese for micro-messaging. Originally, the app is a messaging app created in 2011 by Tencent and was already different from the competition by spreading the voice message feature. But years over years functionalities were added to the platform until forming a specific ecosystem for all WeChat users. If the app is very familiar to smartphone users in Chinese cities, it is an essential tool for Chinese netizens.
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Why is WeChat important for small companies?
First and foremost, in the Q1 of 2018, WeChat reached the threshold of 1 billion monthly active users on its platform and nearly 900 million users on a daily basis. This represents a huge opportunity for any brand that wants to gain awareness in the most competitive market in the world.
What can WeChat do for users?
Even though WeChat started with a very basic messaging service, now their range of services expanded so much, they have become a need in the Chinese people’s life. Here is some example of what you can do with WeChat: Send messages and call your friends (obviously), scroll on news about your friends (feed filled with text, videos, photos, link displayed in what is called « moments »), use your app to pay in shops (online as well as offline), buy train/plane tickets, order food, and much more! According to WeChat Impact Report 2018, Wechat only accounts for 34% of the total data traffics in China! WeChat is managing the life of people, it isn’t a simple « addictive » app.
Wechat Features for Companies
You will need to register your brand as an official account. You basically have 2 options: you can either sign up for a subscription account or a service account. They both have their advantages and disadvantages regarding what your objectives are (be careful, you will need a business license « 营业执照 » as well as a WeChat Pay account). If you want we can help you.
- Subscription Account : With a subscription account, your company is more focused on its content. Your content is accessible in the SERP of the search engine embedded in the WeChat ecosystem. You have the possibility to send one push notification to engage your audience per day. However this notification is « hidden » in the folder where all the subscription account notification goes.
- Service Account: The focus of the company is around the user. Your maximum amount of push notifications is 4 per month but the notification is more visible than the subscription account’s because they appear as a personal conversation in the message feed of the user. With this account, you can create a closer relationship with the user through chats, loyalty programs, etc.
We recommend using a WeChat Service Account
Your account is live, you can start using all the options on the WeChat website. This includes modifying the toolbar at the bottom of the discussion window with the user, set up a menu, set-up automatic messages, and so on.
Once you are done, choosing and establishing your company’s account, you need to know how you are going to sell your products :
- You can build your own website with embedded HTML5 pages to access Wechat features for your Website. But this means that you have to deal with everything (coding of the website, design, while working on administrative tasks regarding your launch in the Chinese market).
- You can create a WeChat Mini-Program which is a very nice opportunity for many reasons: first, it is way less expensive than investing in a real website/ app. Second, it’s user-friendly, meaning that users don’t have to force themselves to download a native app, especially when the brand is new for them, it is practical to get to discover a brand that is already embedded into the WeChat ecosystem.
- Use an already established e-commerce platform: you can have your shop integrated into these platforms, these allow you to start on a good base, and for a pretty reasonable amount of money. However, this also limits your freedom in terms of design and restrain your control over your actions on the platform.
Concerning already existing platform, you have many choices, among others: Youzan (有赞) which is the number one player on the WeChat ecosystem (fee are around 4800 yuan per year); Jingdong (京东) mainly specialized in technology product, Jingdong is a huge platform facing the competition of Tmall et Taobao as they are also a major player in this field (because of its popularity Jingdong is also a monetized service, price is 10% commission on sales as well as administration/management fee every month; if you search for a free service you may look at Weidian (微店) which is quiet-looking like Youzan, however, because traffic is less important in this platform, being part of it
Also as a small business, you should consider creating a special link between you and the customer, win their trust, and to do this, you can use the most basic service of WeChat: messaging service. Create customer service to answer every need of your actual (and potential!) consumers.
You can take advantage of being a small structure to create small groups of good customers to make them discuss your services and products, rewarding them with special prizes (coupon, special offer, etc..), but also put in place Q&A sessions to get advice from your core audience to improve your customer service.
Leverage these opportunities to generate sales!
WeChat Marketing Automation
WeChat provides some very useful tools, that can make your first exchange with users very informative and useful for you.
- Auto Reply Tool: this tool allows you to create special auto-reply message depending on the situation because when someone subscribes to your Wechat account you have this small window of only 5 messages to get to know them better. So firstly you can create a welcome message, then you can establish auto-reply messages based on the keyword found on the message sent by the user. Finally, you have automatic message answers which correspond to a message send to the user to tell him/her that they will be recontacted shortly (because none of the keyword have been recognized by the auto-reply keyword tool.
This is an included tool in the WeChat platform but you can also call third parties to give you other really smart tools to help you improve your customer service and leverage the WeChat platform.
- For instance the Grouping and Tagging feature, which is provided by third parties that allow you to automatically categorize your followers into groups of specific criteria (genre, city, age etc). Which is practical for segmentation marketing.
- Third party tool for push messages: when someone follows the account of your company you can send them push notification to share your content (4 times a month for a service account and one a day for subscription account). With 3rd party programs you can make the content you send adapted to your target (instead of sending the same content to all your customer base).
Others useful features
- QR codes: One of the aspects you should definitely leverage from WeChat features is QR codes, even though QR codes never really made their way into western countries’ business they boomed in China and have become an essential for any marketer trying to gain raise awareness for its brand. So the first thing for your small brand is to create QR code for Chinese to have easy access to all your content, you can obviously put it in all your marketing support/campaign (flyers/ infographics/ brochure/…)
- CRM functionalities: meaning that if your business has a loyalty program on its website, you better ask your consumers to link their WeChat account to their loyalty program. This can help you to collect useful data to improve your relationship with them.
- WeChat Wallet: one of the most well-known and useful feature of WeChat is its Wallet that allow to do almost anything. The best way to leverage this feature is to use some coupons for special offers. You have many different ways to make users win coupons, this can be super basic : just scanning a QR code, or by using other WeChat features like phone shaking, link shared via Moments, or by WeChat ads (however WeChat ads can be very pricy for a small brand even more for testing the market).
- Moments: it is the Chinese version of a Facebook feed, users can share photos, videos, text and articles, links, mini-programs that can only be seen by the user’s friend. Moment is only a good tools for social networking, it is also a great a way to promote your business especially with Moment ads that are one of the first marketing strategy tool that business use while implementing their brand in China.
Marketing strategy: rise brand awareness !
- Publish content regularly! One of the best ways to improve your visibility is to write meaningful and useful content. Write articles about your business to show your expertise. You can also display your products and service and talk about them: take the angle that suits the most your business, if your business is in technologies, you can talk about features, functionalities, design, etc…
– Ex If your business is a traditional food, you can talk about history, or give very special food recipes. Finally, if you’re doing fashion or perfumes, you should tell about your storytelling, right? Because WeChat is a pretty close ecosystem you may have difficulties targeting and make people find your account, this is the reason why, if they find you, you have to make the first impression perfect! Be creative, express yourself to text, you can add pictures, videos, and so on.
- Launch Marketing Campaigns: Brands can launch marketing campaigns to engage customers. It can be reposting an article that limits been published for gaining a prize. Or organizing a special contest that involves customers.
- KOL Promotion: Key Opinion Leaders are very helpful players for any business. They are influential personalities operating mainly on social networks (they can also be celebrities), and they are one of the most efficient ways to promote your brand. They can be part of your marketing campaigns by creating content around your guidelines, or they can BE the marketing campaign by offering possibilities of promoting your services/ products (by reviewing it, by sponsored post, doing giveaways, creating contests engaging their community, etc). They are effective because they have strong relations with the community they built, a community that trusts them and often identifies with them. That’s why they are so influential and must be considered as a must.
However, KOLs campaign on WeChat can be very pricy, so if you go for this type of promotion choose wisely the KOL you want to work with, make sure that he/she is targeting the right consumers for you. Also if you want a less pricy personality, choose the less popular one, they are still ways because their community is smaller they’re considered as more authentic.
In all previous cases, please share the content you created and the QR code to access your account on other social networks (Weibo, Toutiao,… ), on websites,
- WeChat Feature: Normally this feature is used by WeChat users for finding people « near » them and interact with these people. But some companies leveraged this function to create marketing campaigns, like some treasure hunt for having discounts for example!
Small brands, heads up!
WeChat is the most spread and used a social network in China, you should elaborate your strategy for the Chinese market allocating a part of your budget and time to WeChat. As said above, you have many different ways to leverage this platform, for all types of budgets. And as you grow you can integrate some new and cost-effective strategies!