WECHAT MARKETING-THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
Many people have been asking us how to do Marketing using WeChat, and we know that a lot of people are wondering if WeChat is crucial to do business in China. And the answer is: Yes! WeChat is not just a single app; it is a whole ecosystem that can be extremely useful for companies trying to enter the Chinese market. To explain the impact WeChat can have when it comes to marketing, we have created this guide based on our experience as a Digital Marketing Agency and we will give you some tips and advice on WeChat Marketing.
WeChat: The must-have app in China
Imagine having an app reuniting all the services of Facebook, Skype, Slack, Amazon, and PayPal… Well, this app already exists and is called WeChat. Considered as the “everything app” for China’s nearly 890 million smartphone owners, WeChat is not only a mix of apps but is also a game platform, a bank, and even a gateway for food delivery and thrift shopping.
What is WeChat?
Created by the Chinese company Tencent and released in 2011, WeChat was at the beginning only a mobile messaging app. And even though new features were introduced, this functionality remains the core of the app. Marketed as Weixin (微信) in China, it was then rebranded as WeChat in 2012 for the international market. In 2018, WeChat reached 1 billion users, which was a significant increase from 2018.
WeChat is the most used social media in China as of 2021 far beyond Weibo. WeChat is expected to grow even more in 2022.
Worldwide, WeChat is one of the leading social networks, ranking sixth in terms of active user number, becoming a lucrative marketing platform with its plethora of different functionalities. Its success relies on the fact that WeChat was able to integrate almost all the features that made the success of the world’s most popular networks.
As you have probably understood, if you want to do business in China, you will have to know how to use WeChat because that is how everyone in China communicates nowadays, both in personal life and at work.
Why does WeChat matter for businesses?
WeChat is not only a messaging app, but it also has numerous features, such as ‘Moments’. Most WeChat users open their WeChat Moments every time they open the app. Audio and text message, group messaging, payment, and games are some examples of WeChat functionalities. The app also allows users to follow official accounts. On average, 49.3% of WeChat users are following between 10 to 20 WeChat accounts. In other words, the app is too big to ignore if you want to be seen as a legit company.
As of 2019, around 24% of the WeChat users followed less than ten official WeChat accounts. Almost half of the users followed between ten and 20 official accounts.
As of 2019, about 25% of WeChat users in China were between 25 and 30 years old. However, there was around 19% of users aged over 41. More than 26% of China’s mobile users spent above 30 minutes per day on WeChat.
The number of active accounts on WeChat has been increasing steadily over the years. In the last quarter of 2020, WeChat had over 1.2 billion monthly active users.
WeChat in daily life
WeChat is part of Chinese people’s daily life, from the beginning to the end of the day, privately and professional life. This could be explained by the fact the app as a well-developed eco-system on top of being a convenient messenger app.
Why should you use WeChat Marketing in China?
We have seen it, WeChat is the app you need in China, there is no denying that. With a major chunk of the population using the app, brands and companies have quickly invested the multiple tools offered by Tencent to professionals. So much that it has become almost distrustful for a business not to own a WeChat Official Account. By using WeChat, even the smallest companies can build a strong and healthy basis for growth in the middle kingdom
Some of the reasons why you should use WeChat to do marketing
- As of today, WeChat is the main tool of communication in China – Privately and professionally.
- Unable WeChat pay (one of the most popular payment methods in China, alongside Alipay) in your brick-and-mortar stores, but also on your website/online store.
- Best Alternative to email marketing & emailing in general
- Content in a format that is more adapted to Chinese netizens habits (H5 brochure, WeChat post, channel)
- WeChat mini program & Store. Integrated App that does not require do be downloaded & installed)
- Official Account for Credibility
- Better communication with customers through WeChat Menu & WeChat CRM
Word of mouth on WeChat
WeChat being closed social media (not everyone can see your post, you cannot see everyone’s posts), it can be challenging to grow a following there. The app also has not been known to be ads-friendly (although it is slowly changing). Because the app is “private”, shares are more meaningful. In general, who do you trust more? A rando on the internet or a good friend of yours? You are more likely to trust a friend recommendation than a random on the internet. (The average number of contacts per WeChat user is around 194 and keeps increasing)
For instance, according to Hootsuite’s data report, the main source of new brand discovery is word-to-mouth recommendations. Chinese consumers are indeed quite timorous toward brands that they have never heard of before.
How to take advantage of WeChat for your business?
The importance of having a verified business account
Many companies have a WeChat account that people can follow, subscribe to, and add to their network. However, as there are many verified accounts there are also a lot of non-verified accounts. A verified account shows that WeChat recognizes that the account is official and shares high quality and creative content. Thanks to that recognition, the brand can attract consumers by posting high-quality media content such as videos, pictures, and text message for their followers. On another hand, consumers are more comfortable when they know that the WeChat account is verified, and they will be more likely to subscribe.
What does it mean for you to have a verified business account?
In addition to the trust, you will gain from your potential customers, there are also some functionalities and other features that will be unlocked as soon as the verification process will be complete. This verification process costs 300RMB (roughly 45 USD) per year for the Chinese platform and 99 USD per year for the international platform.
However, if you don’t want to waste time and reduce the amount of paperwork and process, you can contact us, and we will create a verified account on WeChat for you. You also must take note that your account’s verified status will remain active for one year from the date of the verification.
Applying for a Business Account on WeChat
A few years ago, there used to be some tough restrictions on who could have a business account on the Chinese WeChat and this is why there were two versions of WeChat, one for Chinese users and the other for international users. The Chinese WeChat was only in Chinese and required to have a Chinese ID, a Chinese phone number, and a business license. The international WeChat was limited to a foreign audience. Thankfully today, international official WeChat accounts are visible to every WeChat user.
(Screenshot from WeChat’s website)
The process of applying is not complicated, but it does require a certain amount of time and preparation. Firstly, you will have to submit a list of documents proving that your business is legitimate. The process will depend on your business and on the account, you want to apply for. Finally, you can directly submit your application via the WeChat website and then patiently wait for about two weeks.
How does WeChat will benefit your business?
WeChat is not just an app, it’s a whole ecosystem of services and functionalities that are especially appreciated by companies doing marketing on WeChat. However, WeChat is vastly different from western apps, so you will have to understand how it works and also understand the Chinese market beforehand. You must keep in mind that WeChat accounts are used as a collaborative work platform for your employees but also as part of your marketing strategy.
The best way to promote your business on WeChat
With more than 2.5 million business accounts registered on WeChat, the competition is tough for everyone, especially for new and smaller companies. However, the best way to promote your business is to be creative and innovative to stand out amongst your competitors. To do so, you will have to produce quality content, create loyalty programs, offer vouchers and promotions to your loyal consumers, but also be responsive to their demand and analyze how they react to your marketing campaigns to adapt your strategy.
WeChat: A Powerful Tool for your E-reputation
On top of increasing your visibility, WeChat is a powerful tool to increase your e-reputation. As you probably already know, social networks are highly effective and decisive in China. Chinese consumers like to follow brands and communicate with their representatives. Communicating with consumers is indeed mandatory if you want to succeed in China. By creating a relationship with your consumers, they will be more likely to buy your products and share their opinion on platforms like Zhihu (知乎).
What is the search tool on WeChat?
If you have WeChat, you have probably already noticed that there is a search icon on the app. In fact, it is a search engine function within the app that allows you to find everything related to a brand in the WeChat / Tencent environment.
Using this search tool, you will be able to display various contents such as:
- Official Account & Mini-Program
- Content from the internet via the Sogou (搜狗) search engine
- Brand Zone
- WeChat moments
- H5 brochure & official Account Posts
- Products & Third-Party Services (Zhihu, Douban, Mafengwo, etc)
- Links to e-commerce platforms
- WeChat Channels
- Novels via the Tencent platform
To go faster, you can also apply filters to easily find pictures, videos, look on the Wiki, and Q&A. Take note that you will also be able to see everything that is related to the brand on your friends’ WeChat moments.
Dior on WeChat Search
As you can see on this screenshot of Dior on WeChat search, brands have the choice between a few layouts to display content in their brand zone.
WeChat: E-commerce Platform
As of 2021, more than 250 million users have linked their bank account to their WeChat account. Chinese users spend on average 500 RMB per month on WeChat’s e-commerce platform. It has become unavoidable for any brand wanting to do business in China to use WeChat.
Clinique – WeChat Store – CNY 2021
Furthermore, WeChat Pay allows users to pay in stores. On WeChat, you can also open an e-shop and sell your products. This is a very convenient solution for small brands that do not have a big reputation in China yet. However, take note that it will be hard to be able to sell your products on TMall or JD if your business is still new or too small.
KOLs: A Good Way to Gain Visibility
If you want to sell your products in the Chinese market, you must know that influencers or Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are highly appreciated to increase a company’s visibility and sell products. Some of these KOLs are even more popular than Chinese celebrities and that’s why Chinese consumers really trust them. However, finding the right KOL who will be able to promote your brand is not an easy task. As a Digital agency in China for many years, we were able to gather quite a few KOLs, and we will be happy to introduce them to you if you want to work with them to promote your products in China.
Be aware that if you sell beauty products or apparel, having a KOL to promote your brand is highly recommended. For example, the most famous KOL in China is Li Jiaqi (or Austin Li) known as the “King of Lipstick”.
Li Jiaqi’s Wechat Moments ads (© Sohu)
WeChat Online Stores: How Does it Work?
If you want to be part of Webchat’s online stores, you can choose between two options:
- You can create your mini program which will be directly available on your WeChat Official Account. You will be able to customize your interface, advertise, promote, and sell your products directly through WeChat. Moreover, WeChat pay is extremely convenient and accessible for users, which can generate a lot of impulse purchases.
- You can also choose to link your official website to your WeChat account instead of creating a new one. This means that when users will click on the link, they will be redirected to your official website, so you can manage your online store more easily.
Drive Traffic to your WeChat Account with a Chinese Website
Compared to Western standards, Chinese standards are vastly different. While Western consumers prefer a clean and refined design, Chinese consumers like colorful web pages with lots of information, animations, and pictures. Targeting Chinese consumers also means that you will need to adapt your content in Mandarin Chinese, using simplified characters.
Use QR code to redirect visitors to your social media – Royal Mansour – Website
The goal is to be understood and gain their attention at the same time, so they can browse your website and potentially buy your products. On top of that, a website in Mandarin will also increase your SEO on search engines such as Baidu and you will gain visibility. It is also recommended to have your website hosted in China, with “.cn”.
Advertising on WeChat
WeChat mini programs
WeChat mini programs are widely popular with many international companies. For example, thanks to the platform’s Mini Programs, third-party “apps” that run in WeChat without requiring downloads, increased to more than one million in 2018 and were used by brands such as Burberry, H&M, Dior, and Longchamp. These mini programs are highly appreciated because they are easy to code, are cost-efficient, and have similar functionalities to websites. However, advertising on WeChat is not only limited to mini programs.
Bonus Ice cream – WeChat Mini-program for delivery
WeChat Ads are always a hot topic in China, some people will preach their effectiveness whilst others will be more skeptical. The key is budget allocation, WeChat ads do require a higher level of initial investment than other platforms. You need to ask yourself: “What’s the point of using WeChat ads?” The purpose is to attract followers while engaging new ones.
WeChat Moments Ads
Launched in 2015, 25 brands including Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz took part in the first testing campaign of the WeChat Moments ads. Advertising on WeChat moment can be effective for brands that already have a certain level of engagement in China.
WeChat Banner Ads
These banners are very much like the ad banners you would see on a website. In the context of WeChat, they are featured at the bottom of a message written by an Official WeChat Account. They can drive users to follow WeChat Official Account, download an app, claim a coupon code, buy a product, etc.
WeChat H5 Brochures
One of the best tools for WeChat business accounts is the possibility to create a WeChat H5 Brochure. These brochures offer a highly engaging experience that catches the user’s attention and can easily generate new leads and sales. So, you should consider this way of advertising as part of your marketing strategy.
Scapa Listing – WeChat Brochure
Developing loyalty programs on WeChat
One of the favorite ways for marketers to actively promote their brand is to convert their followers into members. This way, they can focus their marketing strategy on creating loyalty programs using geo-location services to send vouchers and promotions to consumers in a certain area for example.
The three main strategies of a loyalty program are:
- Offering them a VIP card through your app or mini program
- Send vouchers directly on WeChat
- Give e-coupons that they can exchange in stores or on your website
Using O2O such as QR codes
The O2O (Online to Offline) strategy is very well-developed in China. In order to promote your brand’s WeChat account, you can print and put your WeChat QR codes everywhere in your stores and on the package of your products, but also on social media apps (like Weibo) and websites. This allows consumers to directly scan your QR code and add your WeChat account as soon as they enter your store or buy your products. For example, you can put a QR code on a banner ad, let the consumers scan the QR code on WeChat, then use geo-location to redirect them to the nearest store.
Contact us to Get Started on WeChat
The Chinese market is one of the most promising in the world in terms of opportunities, both for smaller companies like startups, but also for larger international companies. But to succeed, you will need to adapt your marketing strategies to local demands and methods, such as using the most popular platform in China: WeChat. To do so, you will need to do a lot of research beforehand and develop a strong marketing and communication strategy. However, expanding its activities in China is not an easy task, as 50% of brands fail because they do not understand the Chinese market well-enough. Working with specialists on the Chinese market is the key to success.
Designing the right digital marketing strategy is key. Working with an agency which has both the Western and Chinese experience so we can help you overcome the pitfalls of the Chinese market. We have collaborated with many companies, helping them with their WeChat marketing strategies and our experts are here to help you develop yours in China.
Our services for WeChat Marketing:
- Mini/Micro-Site Development
- Ad Campaign Management
- Content Promotion Strategy (Organic)
- WeChat Content Creation & Formatting
- Reporting & Analytics
- HTML5 Content & Account Development
- WeChat CRM & Menu
Of course, if you have questions or need more information about our services, do not hesitate to contact us so we can talk about your projects.