WeChat's size and marketing make it a gold mine for retailers

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For global retailers that are seeking new marketing channels and sales channels, WeChat is the place to present the business.

WeChat’s strong organic traffic and powerful marketing tools can help retailers acquire customers and create loyalty. It is also important that retailers should have local partners to navigate through different path and select the right approach to capture the market opportunities.

With close to 900 million monthly active users, WeChat is the most popular social app in China, supporting real-time messaging, social networking, e-wallet and many other functions. Mary Meeker, a tech investor, has estimated that Chinese people spend a total of 900 million hours every day in this app, or close to 30% of mobile usage. The Omni-app has already become a part of everyone’s life.
Unlike Facebook or Instagram, WeChat has built a mini-eco-system within the app so that users can complete lots of activities such as shopping, paying bills, interact with vendors, buy tickets, reserving a table. What’s more, users do not leave the app when they perform such activities. It’s like having the world in your pocket.

For overseas retailers, having a WeChat presence is important to keep up the trend in the dynamic digital market. Chinese consumers invested a lot of time and efforts browsing in WeChat, which represents a tremendous opportunity for retailers.

What should retailers do to take advantage? They should set up an official WeChat account, launch an HTML5 store in WeChat and develop a WeChat mini app.

The WeChat Official account is an official portal for corporate business. As opposed to an individual account, a WeChat Official account is verified by WeChat, adding a layer of trust for the end users. Similar to a page on Facebook, retailers can use a WeChat Official account to publish content and engage with followers. It also allows retailers to customize the menu bar so that it can provide tailored services for users.

Retailers can register a subscription account and service account on WeChat. The subscription account has all the basic content managing and marketing features, while service account is a better choice for e-commerce as it supports multi-chat customer service, native e-commerce and payment, e-coupons, customer loyalty programs and full advertisement functions.

Retailers should also launch a HTML5 store in WeChat. A WeChat Store in the narrow sense is a native B-to-C e-commerce interface integrated in the retailer’s official WeChat account, but in fact, there are different ways to set up a WeChat store in the broad sense. Retailers can adapt their fully-functional online store to a mobile version, or leverage 3rd party HTML5 web store template to launch a store in WeChat.

Earlier this year, Michael Kors had announced to migrate its e-commerce business in China from marketplaces to the WeChat store. From WeChat, the brand can engage directly with the customers, benefit from the huge customer traffic inside the app, and convert marketing efforts to deals inside the app - without adding layers of barriers.

The benefit of having a WeChat store is obvious. For customers, a WeChat store is easier to navigate, supports seamless payment via WeChat Pay, and more mobile friendly. It doesn’t require a Chinese local entities or certification, which makes it easier to set up for foreign business. However, retailers need to take care of fulfillment, international logistics, as well as digital marketing in China and customer services, since WeChat Store simply provides an interface for retailers.

Finally, the mini-app is a newly born feature of WeChat. Coded in a different manner than the HTML 5, the mini-app technology can allow developers to create an app in WeChat with essential functions of a normal app, but removing the unfriendly side of it. Mini-app users do not need to worry about login, passwords, downloading, upgrading, etc. The past few months have seen an explosion of various kinds of mini-app, including car hailing apps, online shopping apps, loyalty program apps, etc.

As a trial project, the mini-app had been protested by certain developers as they decrease the demand to download a full-size app, but with growing adoption and strong support from WeChat, it is likely that in the future that it will become a mainstream approach to reach the Chinese customers.

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