With 650 million monthly active users, WeChat – popularly known as the Chinese version of instant-messaging app WhatsApp – is the fastest growing messaging app at the moment. And, unlike other apps in this category, WeChat is integrated with hundreds of third-party apps that enable users to book appointments, make payments, place orders, pay for taxis – all from within the app.
This means that along with worldwide brands such as Nike, Burberry, Starbucks and Pepsi, small businesses too are focusing their attention on WeChat with the aim of engaging with the Chinese customer base.
Chinese marketing expert Benjamin Sun from Think China, says that Australian businesses can also tap into the growing Chinese customer base in Australia by including WeChat in their marketing strategy. Here he shares his top four reasons why WeChat is where it’s at.
1. Growing number of active users
The first thing to recognise about WeChat is the large number of active users in Australia, a number that is rising rapidly.
“At the moment, there are 1.5 million WeChat users in Australia, including Chinese tourists, international students and company employees who are visiting/residing in the country. In 2015 alone, we saw one million international shoppers arrive from China, of which most landed in Sydney. If you treat each new arrival as a potential customer, actively using WeChat, it gives you an opportunity to reach such a massive audience on a single platform,” explains Sun.
2. More immediate appeal than email
When compared to traditional marketing tactics such as email, WeChat offers a more immediate connection with the user as your promotional content is delivered straight to the user’s phone. It is also important to note that WeChat users are very active, with 55 per cent opening the app more than 10 times a day and spending over 40 minutes on the app every day.
This makes it a very powerful platform for businesses because it allows brands to advertise and communicate in an ecosystem where users are active all the time,” says Sun.
3. Interactive interface
WeChat is a versatile platform which supports images, texts, and multimedia content enabling you to create a variety of engaging content.
“WeChat users spend close to three minutes engaging with a post, which is more time as compared to many other social platforms, where users have a short attention span,” Sun says.
The app’s voice chat function is the most popular feature with 85 per cent of users reporting they had used the service, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). This has encouraged brands such as McDonalds to share engaging audio content on their WeChat page.
The app also offers live chat functionality for brands that can afford 24/7 manpower. And, for smaller business, the app offers auto-reply functionality, which can be set up to answer common customer queries about price and location.
4. Suitable for small to medium businesses
For a majority of Australian businesses, spending on WeChat could be a concern if they have less than 1000 subscribers on their official WeChat profile. In such a scenario, WeChat’s advertising options are more effective as they allow you to place ads on other WeChat accounts such as a Chinese news channel, to build awareness and get new subscribers.
“After you successfully increase your subscribers through advertising on other apps, you can go ahead and optimise your official WeChat account targeting your subscribers. This strategy works well for businesses which are starting out on WeChat with a limited budget,” Sun advises.
WeChat is also ideal for small businesses such as restaurants who can geo-target customers, send vouchers and offers, and allow people to book a table.