WeChat has been on the scene for just 8 years and has already reached the status of being one of the most popular social networks in the world. True, in the Western World, WeChat may not be as popular as WhatsApp. Nevertheless, if you live in China or do business in this market, you need WeChat.
Every day, over 1 billion users use WeChat. This means that almost every Chinese person uses the Social Network daily. WeChat is not simply a handy tool for the Chinese to organize their life and have social interactions. WeChat is a major marketing tool for companies doing business in China.
What is WeChat?
WeChat is a multipurpose messaging and social media app released by Tencent. The platform comes with countless features that make WeChat much more powerful and advanced than any other social network.
At present, WeChat is the largest social network in China which can count on a user base of over 1 billion customers. Since other popular social network platforms, like Facebook, are blocked in China, WeChat is a critical marketing channel for companies in China.
What Can You Do with WeChat?
The Chinese often refer to WeChat as the “app for everything” or “the super app” and those names truly reflect the capability of this app. Besides the messaging functions, WeChat is used daily by Chinese users for buying goods and services, transferring money, planning holidays, contacting customer support, marketing purposes, and a lot more.
By the end of 2018, WeChat released a major update that changed the look of the interface and introduced additional features. Many of these features have been designed for individual users, but there is also much available for companies.
A closer look at the available features of WeChat in 2019 will help you to understand how to use this social network to reach more customers in China, promote your products and services and expand your business in China.
Essential WeChat Features for Individuals
The following features are utilized daily by Chinese users and have become a way of life for them. As you will see, WeChat cares for and simplifies many tasks. Thus, it is not surprising that this social network has become so popular.
- Messaging and Calling App
WeChat allows for the exchanging of messages between users and supports free calls. The messaging functions include text and voice messaging, broadcast messaging, video calls and conference calls. Unlike other social platforms, WeChat can be used to message or call internationally both to and from China.
- WeChat Localization: (Share Localization)
Once you turn on the location service, WeChat allows you to share your location with friends. The same feature is used by the app to direct you to geo-localized ad content. The WeChat localization features are becoming more and more important for marketing purposes.
- Scan QR Code
When using WeChat, you can scan a QR code to add a new friend and have quick access to a wide range of information and services. QR Codes are very popular in China and you can find them everywhere. QR Code marketing has become an important channel for companies to redirect users to their products.
- WeChat Search Engine
WeChat Search Engine is the feature introduced by Tencent to explore content within the social network. In fact, WeChat Search Engine doesn’t find content on the web, but only searches within WeChat. You can use the search engine function to explore moments in your contacts, articles on specific topics, or to discover other WeChat Official Accounts.
On special occasions and festivals, the Chinese have a custom of exchanging red envelopes containing money. WeChat allows users to exchange red envelops electronically. Hongbaos transfers money to selected users of WeChat wallet. Electronic red envelops can be shared individually or in groups. This feature has been very successful among users, and companies even use it to attract more customers through a reward system or a prize-winning system.
- News Feed (WeChat Moments)
You can use WeChat Moments to post images and text, share music and to comment on your likes with your friends. All the content posted through WeChat Moments will be visible only to your group of friends. There is even an option to link your WeChat Moments to a Facebook and Twitter account so that your WeChat News Feed will automatically be posted on those two platforms.
WeChat E-wallet connects the app with your bank account or credit card. Once the E-wallet has been set up, you can use WeChat to make payments by scanning a code on your mobile device.
- WeChat Pay
WeChat Pay is the payment system integrated into WeChat. It allows you to complete a payment quickly using a smartphone. The payment can be completed by scanning a QR code, Quick Pay system, In-App native or web-based payment method.
- Card Repay
Card Repay allows you to connect your credit card to WeChat to complete payments. However, the service is not free anymore and WeChat adds a fee for every payment
WeChat Loan is a rather unique feature and the success of it has exceeded expectations. The feature is operated in connection with Webank and allows you to borrow up to RMB 300,000 without any collateral.
- Mobile Top Up
If you run out of credit on your mobile phone, you don’t need to waste your time going to the nearest phone company office. You simply use WeChat to top up your mobile phone.
- Utilities (Bills)
This feature may require a bit of extra time when setting it up for the first time because you must enter some personal details to activate the service. However, once this first step is over, you can use WeChat to pay your water, electricity, heat, phone and internet bills.
- Public Services
This section of WeChat allows you to have quick access to public services like the weather forecast, traffic status, making hospital registrations, making reservations, paying public utility fees and more.
- Third Party Operators and Services
As with public services, there are countless third-party services that are accessible through the social network. Some of them are listed below.
- Booking Rail and Flight Tickets
WeChat comes with a ticket booking service that allows you to find the best ticket for your next trip. This feature explores different travel combinations and then you can book and pay for the ticket you need. After booking, you will receive your reservation on your account status notification.
- Book a Taxi
If you need a taxi ride, you can use WeChat to book it. Moreover, you don’t need to worry about having cash with you since you can pay the taxi service using WeChat.
- Movie Tickets
WeChat even helps you organize your leisure time. You can use the app to book and pay for movie tickets, avoiding the line at the box office.
As with tickets and other services, WeChat gives you access to a hotel booking system. You can use this feature to find the best accommodation for your needs. Of course, you can use WeChat payments to pay for your booking.
- Flash Sales
Flash Sales is a feature that allows you to discover the best offers for buying online. Many companies run flash sales, either to test the Chinese market, or to acquire more customers. This feature is a quick way to discover good deals at any given time.
WeChat has a functionality that assists you in discovering houses for sale or for rent in specific areas. You can use it to narrow down your research for your accommodations.
WeChat Features for Companies
Given the popularity of WeChat and its many features, this Social Network has become an essential marketing tool for companies who want to enter the Chinese market.
WeChat offers several channels to advertise your products and services, enlarge your customer base and even sell directly on WeChat.
- WeChat Official Account
If you want to use WeChat to promote your business, you must open a WeChat Official Account. The Official Account grants companies the opportunity to get in touch with customers and promote their brand on the platform. Therefore, opening a WeChat Official Account is essential to doing business in China.
The process of opening a WeChat Official Account may be daunting, but it is well worth the effort. Moreover, you must decide whether to open a subscription, service, or enterprise account. We have prepared a detailed guide on how to choose and open an Official Account. You can even contact us, and our experts will assist you with the procedure.
- WeChat Stores
WeChat stores are the equivalent of an E-commerce website but are focused only on the social network. Setting up a WeChat stores gives your customers a fast way to access your products and, of course, to buy them through WeChat.
A WeChat store offers another important advantage. You can use the store for customer care services. For instance, you can offer assistance and send notifications and promotions to enhance customer retention.
- WeChat Mini Programs
WeChat Mini Programs are very similar to WeChat stores, but they function differently. A WeChat store is meant to offer an E-commerce experience optimized for WeChat, while a Mini Program is an app that runs within the WeChat ecosystem.
WeChat Mini Programs have been launched in recent years and their popularity keeps growing. Every company operating in the Chinese market should consider the option to have a WeChat Mini Program.
- WeChat Article Paywalls
Content publishers can monetise their text creations using WeChat paywalls. This feature, available for official business accounts, opens the possibilities of setting up paid blogs, presenting opportunities for ‘tiered’ content to users and customers, as well as creating value from original content.
The paywall essentially prevents unauthorised access to non-paying users in select areas of the WeChat official account. The financial mechanism to make this happen is the native WeChat Pay function. Apple users may still require using the OS’ service to access content, whereas the full feature is available for Android users.
- WeChat Marketing: Advertisements and Promotions
WeChat offers countless opportunities to market your products and enhance brand awareness.
For instance, through WeChat, you can create targeted content for your audience and reach them with promotions, flash sales and give away campaigns. You can also partner with local influencers, run Pay-per-click campaigns and more. Refer to our guide on how to promote your WeChat Official Account.
- Scan & Purchase Modules
WeChat enables shoppers with a new dimension within the shopping experience.
WeChat utilizes image recognition, that allows you to scan any desired physical product, before making it available for purchase online. Image analytics enables the module to recognise any good, before pairing it with online products with the same, or similar appearance. This function operates as an add-on to its existing Scan & Translate service.
- Payment Gateways
WeChat has an integrated payment gateway called Tenpay, also known as WeChat Pay.
Since this payment gateway is integrated into the app, Tenpay has quickly become the second most important payment method in China.
This is good news for companies who can reach customers and collect money from them seamlessly through their mobile phone.
- WeChat CRM
WeChat CRM (Client Relationship Management) makes it easy for your company to stay connected to your customers. This feature allows you to collect information about your customers, tracking their behavior on the platform. You can even use WeChat CRM to offer instant support on the social network and monitor when they talk about your brand or leave feedback.
All this information is invaluable in organizing your overall marketing strategy, meeting your customers’ needs and planning effective WeChat advertising campaigns.
- WeChat Work
WeChat Work is a messaging tool specifically designed for internal communication and to connect corporate organizations. Even though it is basically a messaging tool, it comes with enhanced features that you can use to improve the efficiency and productivity of your organization.
For instance, WeChat Work can track the working time of employees, handle emails, manage phone calls to be automatically billed to the company, send announcements, and so on.
Latest WeChat Features in 2020
In late 2019 and early 2020, WeChat has introduced some new features that testify to how the company is committed to offering its users a continuously improved service. Here are some of the brand-new WeChat features:
- New Look
Since the update, WeChat features a new look with lighter colors for better readability. The icons have been redesigned and even the way content is organized has been improved. For instance, more space has been added between elements for easier usage.
- Related Articles
Now articles published in WeChat official accounts will display related articles inviting the user to keep reading and don't abandon the app, this is a clear attempt by WeChat to increment user retention.
- Improved Search Engine
The searching feature allows now to use filter the results by category, now users will have an easier time finding official accounts, articles, mini programs and products.
- Video feed in Discover Menu
Rich content is now possible to share, using a highly engaging video format similar to Douyin, also known as Tiktok. This unique short film enables users and brands alike to upload visual media to WeChat moments. In what is a similar function to Facebook and Instagram content feeds, this visual can be made visible to a user’s social circle.
- Time Capsule
Time Capsule is a fun way to share your moments with friends. You can use your smartphone camera to shoot videos and then add text, music or stickers to it.
Once your video is posted, it will be visible to your friends for 24 hours. A blue circle next to the profile picture notifies your friends when a Time Capsule video has been uploaded.
- Increased Article Video Limit
WeChat content creators once faced a limit of up to 3 audio or video elements within a single publication. Recent updates have raised this ceiling to 10 audio-visual components. That allows you to create more rich and engaging content.
- Selfie Stickers
Given the popularity of stickers, WeChat has now made it easier for you to find new stickers. All you do is click Stickers>Selfie Stickers in the chat bar and you will discover countless ways to add character to your images.
- Chat Alerts
This is a handy feature when you want to make sure you don’t miss important messages. You can activate a Chat Alert on any given chat. For three hours, every time a message is posted in the chat, your phone will vibrate, and a full screen message will inform you about the new message.
- Group Note Features
This function allows users to post information, in the most visible position within a group chat window. With potentially overwhelming amounts of information, administrators of chat groups can create specialised lists, or establish the Group Note. As a brand, you can pin information, allowing members to follow and view essential messages at any time.
Such a feature is highly desired as it is instrumental in creating a sign-up list. Once new members join a new list, they will be presented with a ‘View Group Note’ option. It is also possible to view this by typing ‘jiēlóng’ or 接龙 within the group chat, which also allows you to create drafts, or examples before creating a list.
- Top Stories Wow Feature
This feature is dedicated to Subscription Official Accounts. When a user reads an article posted by a Subscription Account, he can click the Wow button if he enjoyed the content. The same content will be then shared among their friends through the Wow feature. In the Top Stories, you will find the Wow tab that will redirect you to all the articles shared by your friends through the Wow button.
WeChat is a social network that keeps on evolving and it is becoming more powerful year after year. With added features, and continued updates to match hardware functions, this so-called ‘superapp’ offers a suite of tools designed for the user, and producer.
There is no doubt that if you live in China you cannot live without it. However, what is most appealing about this platform is the unmatched marketing opportunities it offers to companies.
QPSoftware is a leading web agency specializing in the Chinese market and we have extensively used WeChat to support our clients’ operations in China. We can assist you in opening a WeChat Official Account, developing WeChat Mini Programs, or in planning an effective marketing campaign.
Contact us today and discover how to use WeChat to promote your business in China.