China has been the largest source market for outbound tourism in the world since 2012 and is also the country with the highest travel and tourism expenditure. With rising household incomes, China’s consumer spending is also set to more than double in 10 years. It is thus no wonder that businesses are increasingly trying to tap into the Chinese consumer base, be it by entering the China market or reaching out to Chinese tourists.
Breaking into a new market like China may be difficult for businesses with limited or no prior experience, but if you are looking to raise brand awareness or increase customer engagement with the Chinese-speaking audience, there is one great way to do it – WeChat.
1.WeChat: The Platform Choice
Launched in 2011 by Tencent, WeChat was originally released as a messaging application. Over the years, it has been further developed to include many other services, and now users can use it for almost everything, including shopping online, making payments and playing games.
Being the 6th most-used social platform in the world, WeChat is the easiest and best way to reach out to the Chinese-speaking audience, for the following reasons:
- WeChat has a massive userbase
It has more than 1.2 billion monthly active users. On the platform, there are 10 billion hits on moment every 24 hours.
- WeChat is the most popular messaging application in China
The application has a 93% penetration rate in major cities of China, and of these users, 87.6% of them stated that WeChat is their most frequently used application.
- Users spend a lot of time on WeChat
Chinese people spend more than one-third of their online time on WeChat. In 2019, the average daily usage time of WeChat is 77 minutes.
The outreach potential of WeChat is undeniably large, and this makes WeChat a good choice of platform. Moreover, the application is also optimised for business marketing, providing three important features:
Beyond the enormous userbase of WeChat, these additional advantages features enhanced the capabilities of WeChat as a marketing platform.
2.WeChat Marketing Solutions
WeChat has three ways in which a business can go about marketing their business.
Each of these solutions serves a specific purpose, complementing each other to form a complete marketing strategy on WeChat.
2.1 WeChat Official Account (微信公众号)
WeChat Official Account (WOA) is like a company’s official website that builds brand image, but with an important additional function of gathering followers. The primary purpose of these Official Accounts is to engage and retain new and existing traffic. Having an official account allows a brand to:
· Send push notifications (promotional messages)
· Send curated content
· Redirect traffic to external websites
An Official Account generally looks like this:
As seen in the picture, the profile reflects the company name and picture, together with a brief introduction of the business. It also has a main menu offering some other options, and a section on the articles the company has posted.
Upon setting the official account up, businesses will be able to:
· Build their brand through push-articles
By combining text, pictures, videos and other brand marketing forms, businesses will be able to achieve a comprehensive publicity effect.
· Display their product and services
Businesses are able to display their main products and services in the menu bar, facilitating the audience to browse at any time.
· Comment and interact
Businesses can engage customers by interacting with their comments.
· Gain a multi-channel spread
WeChat is linked to many other platforms, allowing their users to share information about the brand via other channels easily.
On top of these four main functions, WeChat also offers many other features. As different types of account offer varying features, we will now take a look at the types of official accounts available.
2.1.1 Types of Official Accounts
There are three types of WeChat official accounts: Service Account (服务号), Subscription Account (订阅号), and Enterprise Account (企业号). While the service accounts and subscription accounts are focused on external markets, enterprise accounts are for internal communication and management. As such, we will place a focus on service accounts and subscription accounts.
The key differences between service accounts and subscription accounts are as follows:
Given the differences, it may be quite hard to decide which type of account to choose. In general, if the content is the core of your product offering, the Subscription Account would be the right choice. In most other cases, Service Account would be the better option as it offers more visibility and features.
2.1.2 Getting Started with Official Accounts
Setting up an official account is only the beginning, using it successfully is yet another ball game. Here are some tips that will help you in making the most out of your WeChat Official Account.
It may take time, but consisteny in utilizing your WeChat Official Account effectively will help a lot in achieving success in your WeChat marketing strategy.
2.2 WeChat Advertising
Available to companies with WeChat Official Accounts is WeChat Advertising, a social marketing promotion platform based on the WeChat ecosystem. This complements your Official Account, and helps to attract new traffic to your account. It is an effective method to boost followers in the early stages.
WeChat Advertising has several benefits, making it a good marketing solution:
· 1.2 billion active traffic
· Multiple display forms
· Controllable cost
· Accurate targeting
There are three categories for WeChat Ads:
2.2.1 WeChat Moment Ads
WeChat Moments advertising is based on the WeChat ecosystem and is a native advertisement displayed in the user’s Moments in the form of original content like friends’ moments. The minimum budget for activating Moment Ads is RMB 50,000, though somewhat flexible depending on the company applying.
For Moment Ads, the ad can include the company name, a 40 character description, a link to an H5 page, and either 6 pictures or 14 seconds of video. There are seven types of ads that can be displayed:
2.2.2 WeChat Official Account (WOA) Ads
WOA Ads are content ads based on the WeChat public platform ecology, in a form similar to the content of the official account articles. This is a flexible and cost-effective approach, as you are able to target a specific target audience. Like WeChat Moments Ads, the minimum budget to activate the ads is RMB 50,000.
WOA Ads can be placed at 3 specific locations.
By using these ads, you will be able to come up with a predictable return on investment. Most companies report a cost per acquisition of RMB 8-20 per follower.
2.2.3 WeChat Mini Program (WMP) Ads
WeChat applet advertising is an advertising system based on WeChat applets and mini game ecology. It uses professional data processing algorithms to achieve controllable costs, considerable benefits, and precise reach. To have a better understanding of WMP Ads, we will have to understand what WMP is, which we will cover shortly.
2.3 WeChat Mini Program (WMP)
WeChat mini-programs are lightweight sub-applications within the WeChat ecosystem. They enable a business to provide advanced features to users such as e-commerce, coupons etc. There are 69 entry points, and it allows for direct conversion of traffic into actual sales and revenue.
Like the other WeChat features, WMP has a large active traffic of 1.1 billion. These WMPs are usually very fast and smooth as they are built completely within WeChat. A self-run WMP also has several advantages:
· Private traffic, thus enabling multiple conversion
· Easy to spread
· Integrated with WeChat Payment
Some examples of WeChat mini programs include:
It is important to note that WMP has some restrictions in the industries that it is open to for overseas entities. However, the common categories (e.g. clothing, beauty, F&B) can all be used in overseas mini program malls.
3. The WeChat Marketing Strategy
Now that we know the different marketing solutions WeChat offers and their respective purposes, let us look at the overall strategy when marketing with WeChat.
4. Learning from Marketing Campaigns
Uniqlo is a Japanese apparel designer and manufacturer that has expanded to many other countries in the world. Even in China, they developed a very strong physical presence by opening numerous stores.
In 2015, Uniqlo rolled out a campaign called the “Style Your Life” campaign. This initiative allowed customers to try on clothes in stores, then stand in front of monitors equipped with cameras to take pictures of themselves with backdrops to various cities. The picture was then sent to their WeChat account.
One-third of people shared it on their Moments, which fuelled the success of their campaign. This publicity stunt also helped to drive in-store traffic. The marketing results showed:
4.2 Fancy Cellar
Fancy Cellar is an importer and e-tailer specialised in boutique wine and spirits. Selling wine on e-commerce like WeChat can be difficult as China faces many counterfeiting issues, making it hard to gain the trust of Chinese consumers.
Through using their WeChat Official Account, Fancy Cellar shared information such as the nuances of wine and spirits. By providing useful content that was sharable, they managed to build up trust in their brand, acquire new followers, and increase their sales. Currently, the brand operates a successful WeChat Shop that provides an easy and reliable platform for consumers to purchase legitimate brand name wines and spirits.
For the 2015 Nike Hong Kong Women’s 10K Race, Nike developed a WMP called Nike WeChat+. This application offered custom eight-week training programs for the participants, with features like performance monitors and unlockable rewards. At the end of the race, Nike showed each participant a surprise film of their transformation story.
The campaign showed tremendous results and was a huge success. The campaign result shows:
Wutafang is a small Korean restaurant in Wenzhou city. In 2015, they posted an article through a locally famous WeChat account, advertising their promotional campaign. The campaign required users to forward the article on Moments and collect 60 likes to win a free meal for 2-3 people. Collecting 30 likes would allow users to enjoy any meal at half price.
The promotion was intended to run for 20 days, from December 11th to 31st. However, thousands of people posted the article, asking their friends to help them get the free meal. In slightly more than 2 hours, the articles received over 100,000 views.
The article received so much traction that the number of people who headed down to the restaurant was way more than what they could accommodate. As such, all their ingredients got used up, and they had to close because buying new ingredients require time. The promotional article was also quickly taken down due to complaints from customers.
4.5 Louis Vuitton & Burberry
Louis Vuitton is one of the most iconic high-end fashion brands. Competing with them are other luxury brands such as Burberry.
Like other brands who are interested in targeting the Chinese consumer market, Louis Vuitton created a WeChat Official Account in order to have an online presence in the market. However, their updates consisted of simply traditional WeChat messages with embedded pictures.
On the other hand, their competitor brands like Burberry was building sleek HTML5 websites to showcase their products. Additionally, Burberry runs marketing campaigns such as the one they did in 2016 during Chinese New Year.
During the campaign, Burberry sent a photo of a cylinder-shaped gift box to its WeChat followers through the application. These followers would have to ‘shake, tap and swipe to try and open the gift’ in order to see what was inside. It was a greeting letter from Burberry, which fans could then personalise to send greetings to their loved ones.
This campaign helped to encourage interaction between the brand and its customers and created a unique user experience for them. In addition, it also helped to create a positive brand image with social media users.
From these campaigns, we are able to see the importance of utilising the features of WeChat properly. Beyond just having an official account, tapping on the additional features such as Moments and WMP allows a company to provide fans with a special experience, thus increasing their brand awareness and improving their brand image.
WeChat has gone far beyond just a messaging and networking application. For any business, it is a great way to connect and interact with customers, increase brand awareness, and build up a brand image. With all the features that are designed and built in the application, having a WeChat Official Account and using it effectively would ease the difficulty for any brand that wishes to enter China.