We need to talk about WeChat

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? In average people install 26 applications on their smartphones, though we frequently engage only 3 of those (comScore, US). It’s frustrating to search for the one you need at a given time, isn’t it. Switching between Messenger, Facebook, Banking (!), Uber… u name it. So what if there would be one that would do all that was mentioned?

…we frequently engage only 3 of those (comScore, US)

Image: WeChat Logo

What is it good for?

WeChat has a powerful yet fairly standard set of features packed into it (these can surely be found in messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp too), such as video calling, group chats, news updates, sharing of large multimedia files and duh, instant messaging.

Perhaps even surprisingly, WeChat is not limited to private life only. Most of the professionals are using WeChat. Yes. For conducting various business uses. For professionals, WeChat packs something that is near resemblance of Slack in Europe and US. Another high-five to business people is the WeChat QR-code feature that is freaking easy to use and could make business cards soon obsolete in the market.

WeChat is not limited to private life only.

But what makes the app truly brilliant is something else, and it goes way beyond instant messaging.

Where do you shop on your phone? On Amazon? What about doing that on WeChat? The app can be used to pay purchases in store but it also hosts its own built-in shopping platform. Splitting a dinner bill (Splitwise), booking and paying a taxi (Uber), a dentist’s appointment, theatre tickets (lastminute.com), flights (Kiwi), sending money or ordering food (Wolt) can all be done inside this one single application. A cashless economy is not so far ahead no more.

Hell, monthly it may be used for conveniences such as to settle utility bills!

In fact, WeChat is there in almost every point of your daily life. From dusk till dawn. It doesn’t only ease the use of services you engage in but broadens the extent of services in your reach right here and now.

The success story of WeChat is mostly built on the leap China took over the desktop computers and internet use

Sorry innovative Europe. For some parts, it really is a step backwards when you travel from China.

Whoa. Only in China. Right?

Yes and no. The success story of WeChat is mostly built on the leap China took over the desktop computers and internet use (in comparison to what we refer as West).

Most of the Chinese were introduced to the web, not on computers, but on mobiles. Skipping the desktop era altogether. When we’re still daunting ourselves with those figures of growing mobile use and how it’s going to boom year after another, China was built for that. Speaking of mobile first, eh?

Roughly half of the online sales are taking place on mobile devices. In the US that is about one third and Europe falls a bit behind.

Image: www.smartinsights.com — Mobile Marketing Stats

Other noteworthy factors were that email never made it to be such a big thing in China, leaving room for instant messaging apps and how it was more common for Chinese to possess multiple mobile devices, thus calling better integration for identity.

WeChat was able to take off on new technologies and mobile-oriented business models but building a robust, use-for-everything -app is no joke. Is it already ignorant to call Chinese businesses unable (or reluctant) to innovate?

Business. Big business.

There are two ways to a make mobile user return to your app. Making the use enjoyable — and having your money in it. WeChat has succeeded in both. Over half of the users have linked their bank cards to the app. The counterparts from the West fall very short on those numbers. Now a third of WeChat users are making regular purchases directly via the app.

Image: The Economist

The sheer amount of users and the broadness of the ecosystem is a fairy land for advertisers and other insight seeking players. This is also visible in plain dollars. Revenues of WeChat are estimated around 1.8 billion dollars last year and valuation for the company could be around 80 billion dollars to date. Goldman Sachs reckons WeChat to be one of the few firms placed to take advantage of the social mobile advertising in such way.

Will I ever use it?

Probably not. But let me first explain what’s there to thrive for.

The number one most annoying things about smartphones are — surprisingly — the apps. You need them but — to be straight with you — you rarely really want them. Notifications, updates, alternatives (!) are geeky and in most parts too much. WeChat has succeeded in making things work (quite) seamlessly. Consumers will vote for the one that makes their life easier.

Consumers will vote for the one that makes their life easier.

Facebook Messenger and others have already taken action in building more multi-faceted service around the instant messaging but there’s a long way to go before that, or any other such application, can boldly face WeChat’s ecosystem. David Marcus (Facebook Messenger) called WeChat simply “Inspiring”.

Although WeChat’s success is tempting for any of the large players such as Facebook or Whatsapp, it (probably) isn’t that possible.

WeChat is doing great for being great.

The ecosystems is in a very different stage as it was when WeChat took over China like a wind. There’s already multiple big ass players in specific areas of use. Privacy is a growing issue. Do you feel comfortable putting all of your personal data under one hood? And lastly, it would most certainly cause questions over the monopoly status — as it already has with Google.

WeChat is doing great for being great. It solves problems for its users and does so with ease. Still, this to be replicated in West is going to take a lot more than just a hump.

This article was first published at Finnchat Blog: http://www.finnchat.com/en/we-need-to-talk-about-wechat/

Sources:
Tech in Asia — https://www.techinasia.com/how-wechat-is-really-used-in-china
The Economist — 
http://www.economist.com/news/business/21703428-chinas-wechat-shows-way-social-medias-future-wechats-world
WeChat — 
http://www.wechat.com/en/