Marketing on WeChat: how to create a full brand experience
The whole world is now watching closely the growth of mobile messaging app WeChat.
Although the app is becoming a global phenomenon, homeland China is where the Tencent’s product is radically changing the digital habits: it’s extremely hard to find a Chinese smartphone owner that doesn’t have a WeChat account. And we’ve recently seen the numbers of mobile in China.
WeChat is getting so huge that it’s already considered the next big thing for what concern Internet control in China, according to Reuters:
“Online communications and national security has already become a conspicuous problem standing before us,” said President Xi Jinping during a speech in November, in which he mentioned WeChat by name.
With 272 million active users (source: Tencent Q3 report) and over two thirds of them in Mainland China, it surely represents a great opportunity for marketing. Hundreds of local and global companies are already active on the app.
Marketing on IM apps: WhatsApp and LINE
Marketing on mobile platforms and m-commerce have been among the hot topics in 2013, and definitely will be bigger in 2014.
Several WeChat competitors started being considered viable platforms for marketing, such as LINE app that – other than “classic” branded profiles – was used in Thailand for a series of flash-sales, including 500 Maybelline lipsticks sold in just five minutes (as reported by Tech In Asia).
Even 400-million-users-strong WhatsApp is starting becoming an interesting platform for brands: quite noticeable was the campaign set up by Absolut Vodka in Argentina, to launch an event through a contest on the mobile app:
One thing is sure: even if looking at the main competitors, the Chinese player is way ahead of the trend. So, how can WeChat platform be fully exploited by brands?
WeChat accounts: Service vs. Subscription
In 2013 WeChat launched a series of features aimed at helping companies in reaching customers more easily and more effectively on the app – as we discussed during our interview with WeChat’s Director of Business Development.
There are two basic levels of accounts a company can choose, based on the kind of interaction they want to have with their followers.
A quick bullet-pointed scheme to understand how they work:
- Subscription accounts:
- One push message per day.
- The message appears in the Official Account folder, together with all the other account a user subscribed to.
- Service accounts:
- One push message per month.
- The message shows up in the chat list, among friends and contacts.
Here is what the interaction with service accounts look like: in this case, the updates from Louis Vuitton’s and Volkswagen’s official accounts appear in the same folder with our “real” friends:
The WeChat brand experience
A part from the interaction based on chat (quizzes, personalized stickers, sharing of links) WeChat enables brands to offer a complete brand experience, setting up what can be considered as a full mini-website, divided in two-levels menus, which can serve a series of marketing objectives.
The interactive menus are a very important tool in order to better manage the interaction with the followers, and can be set up on the WeChat account panel or with the help of third-party services like WECOOL (more on the technical details can be found on this post by China Internet Watch).
Below are a few examples of how the WeChat environment can fit to different brands’ needs.
Uniqlo: product showcase
Brands can use WeChat to display products and services. Here’s a good example: Uniqlo (ID: UNIQLO_CHINA), Japanese brand of clothing, has different sections inside the official WeChat account to showcase what they offer to consumers.
Such as branded mobile apps (on the left) and a full product catalog (on the right):
China Merchants Bank: online banking
China Merchants Bank is quite active on social media – as we discussed on our report on Social media and Banks in the BRIC.
It’s also among the first brand that started using WeChat as a marketing tool with an official channel (ID: cmb4008205555). The bank allows its customers to access to customer care, and always be able to check their balance and payments:
Elong and China Southern: online booking
Airline companies and online travel agencies have always been among the fastest companies to embrace new digital technologies. Chinese travel booking site Elong (ID: elongguanfang) enables users to book hotels and flights right on the app:
This is the case of China Southern Airlines (ID: www_csair_com), which enables users to choose and reserve flights right inside WeChat, and get a QR code which can be used as boarding pass:
Xiaomi: flash sales
In Novemebr 2013 smartphone maker Xiaomi (ID: xmsj816) set up a pop-up sale of 150,000 Mi3 Android phones on WeChat, at the price of RMB 1,999 ($320) with a RMB 0.01 reservation payment:
Louis Vuitton: customer assistance
Mobile customer care is one of the most important WeChat features, and among the first one to be exploited by global and local brands.
Popular is the case of Louis Vuitton (ID: louisvuittonofficial), whose welcome message on the WeChat account goes (more or less) like this:
“Hello! Thanks for following Louis Vuitton official channel. We are here daily, 10:00 to 19:30, to answer your questions, explore Louis Vuitton and embark on a wonderful journey!”