Based on Tencent’s annual earnings report released this March, WeChat and QQ’s MAU had reached 938 million and 861 million, respectively. With such a huge user base, the social network that’s building up on WeChat is gradually evolving. In fact, 60 per cent of social network on WeChat has shifted from relatives and friends to colleagues and co-workers, according to a report on WeChat users released by Tencent Penguin Think Tank.
It’s estimated that Tencent has included another 500 million users with strong need for IM, group chat and file transfer service during work. As a matter of fact, Tencent’s QQ and WeChat have already been seamlessly transferred from personal communication to work place.
For sure, Tencent won’t ignore the huge value of this group of users. After all, there could be a huge enterprise service beneath these individual workers.
In April, 2016, Tencent officially launched WeChat Enterprise APP. Over a year later, TIM, s simplified version of QQ, was launched. These two APPs are developed by Tencent’s WeChat and QQ team, respectively. At present, their functions and positioning still differ a lot so as to keep existing users and maintain high user activity level on both platforms. In the near future, however, Tencent also plans to enter the enterprise service market through social networking.
From WeChat to WeChat Enterprise?
In fact, WeChat users have already begun to complain that their life and work had been mixed together. “Our team wants to build another WeChat inside WeChat. With this new WeChat, we shall enable better communication experience, higher communication efficiency, as well as functions such as colleague title identification and group contact book, etc.,” Lu Jin, industry director of WeChat Enterprise, said during an industry salon held by WeChat Enterprise this March.
In fact, Lu has already pointed out three of the most important features of WeChat Enterprise: better communication experience, identification and group contact info.
To be more specifically, the main different between WeChat and WeChat Enterprise include:
1. Instant Message.WeChat Enterprise users can join chat groups with over 500 members. WeChat users can seamlessly import WeChat chat history, chat groups and contacts into WeChat Enterprise. Besides, read receipt function is enabled. For example, the boss can enable this function for a piece of important message or announcement, so that he or she can know clearly how many employees have read the message and make sure nobody misses any message.
In addition, WeChat Enterprise makes common functions in work places such as phone call and video meeting even clearer. For example, employees from different departments could be assigned free phone call duration. Moreover, employees could enable functions such as “work break” and “off duty”, so that they will no longer receive any message.
2. Privacy protection. When starting a new chat group inside WeChat Enterprise, members’ identity will be automatically checked. When an employee quits the job, he or she will be automatically cleared from the chat group. Besides, users can mutually hide contact info of group members or the group.
As to message management, admins can enable watermark function so that any message shared from WeChat Enterprise to WeChat will be protected by watermarks, and that relevant personnel can easily trace back to the leaker.
3. Corporate structure. WeChat Enterprise adopts an extremely delayering interface. Therefore, there’s little difference (in terms of functions) between employees of different titles. For example, employees can tag the bosses as important contacts, so that they can receive their message even after work, while bosses can also tag “red envelopes” so that only employees can open and collect them.
In comparison, TIM is a lot simpler as to product structure. As a matter of fact, TIM’s positioning is “a simplified QQ” and target mainly office users. Therefore, entertainment functions such as QQ VIP, portrait photo, QQ zone, etc. are hidden, while office functions such as online file editing, multi-end sync, email, file transfer and schedule, etc. are highlighted.
It’s not hard to tell that users can still see the trails of WeChat and QQ on WeChat Enterprise and TIM. In fact, Tencent means to give users such impression: since they look quite familiar, Tencent saves enterprises the efforts to educate users.
“From chairman to general managers, from CEOs to employees, everybody is using WeChat. People have already been accustomed to it. Therefore, when we considered the possibility to use an IM software for internal communication, we had no other choice but WeChat,” Xiang Lei, general manager of Zhong’an Insurance’s social network division, told TMTPost.
Since Zhongan registered its own WeChat Enterprise account as early as 2014, it smoothly transferred from the account to WeChat Enterprise after it was launched.
At present, WeChat Enterprise already gains over 30 million individual users from companies such as ERKE, Zhong’an, Bilibili, lagou.com, etc. TIM also once disclosed that 10 per cent of its new users were not active users on QQ. In other words, WeChat Enterprise and TIM have already gone through the early stage of traffic accumulation. However, they have just begun their adventure in the enterprise service sector.
How can social networking software meet enterprises’ demands?
Different from the general consumer market, the enterprise service market often involves more complicated struggles between standardization and personalization. Take work attendance for an example, every company has its own standards. Therefore, developers have to take into consideration all possible ways of calculation and details. However, if an internet company focuses too much attention on personalization, it will end up becoming simply an outsourced company for large clients.
“There’s one common feature behind BAT’s rapid growth: internet effect. Based on their huge traffic, they can achieve rapid growth even with a simple function or service,” Yan Xianqing, product manager of Tencent Instant Message, said in a public event.
For Yan, different from To C social network software, To B software has to be private and secure. In other words, only a company’s employee can use its email service, for example. As a result, an independent communication circle is built inside each company. Therefore, no external connection is necessary, while the internet effect is also hard to achieve. This may help explain why no company has scaled in this sector yet.
Therefore, how can To B-end product breaks the gap between different enterprises and scale in development? This happened to be the goal TIM is centered around at present. Yan also explained to TMTPost two natural advantages of TIM: on the one hand, as Chinese enterprises are increasing moving towards delayering structure, TIM’s style of communication perfectly meets users’ demands; on the other hand, TIM’s based on QQ, which naturally links internal and external communication together with strong social networks.
Here’s Yan and his team’s solution: they shall start from To C-end and focus primarily on communication and collaboration. By attracting more employees to use their software, they shall gradually spread from internal to external, from downstream to upstream, from clients, mobile carriers to partners. As a result, they shall solve be able to solve the two annoying problems with traditional enterprise level platform: weak social network and the lack of internet effect.
From this aspect, WeChat Enterprise and TIM adopt basically the same development logic: achieving scaled development through standardized products and familiar interfaces. However, how can they meet office users’ needs for work attendance, application and reviewing, and meeting management, etc.?
As far as TMTPost’s told, WeChat Enterprise and TIM have the same answer to this question: they shall either reply on third-party developers or have users design the mechanism by themselves.
Aware of its position in the Chinese enterprise service market, Tencent attempts to make best use of its advantages and bypass the disadvantages. At first, Tencent rely heavily on its IM software ’s traffic. After entering the work scenario inside many companies, they shall open their API and link with the HR, ERP and financial management software of each company. As a result, they shall be integrated to enterprises’ information system.
“Large enterprises don’t need our original OA software. Therefore, we just open our contact info, application and message interfaces and ensures open API, so as to make WeChat Enterprise an integrated part of enterprises’ existing system,” Wu Zhiwei, senior product manager of WeChat Enterprise, explained to TMTPost.
From his perspective, ideally, WeChat Enterprise should become a mobile office platform where enterprises can not only efficiently communicate with each other but also use whatever third-party applications they like.
What’s the potential of the enterprise service market?
For internet giants, as traffic from C-end achieves a certain scale, it’s natural to carry out B-end service based on existing services. This is exactly what Tencent is planning right now, so does JD.
At the beginning of last month, Chinese 3C e-commerce platform JD announced that it had already teamed up with JD logistics, JD Finance and JD Cloud, launched JD-Business strategy and entered the enterprise purchasing service sector.
“Traditionally, there could be a grey area in the enterprise service sector. However, we believe this is exactly the biggest headache for the traditional enterprise service sector,” Song Chun, Key Customer Manager of JD Group, told TMTPost.
Therefore, JD also adopts the 2C-to-2B logic: it would scale in the 2C sector first and then gradually move to the 2B sector.
However, while extending e-commerce business can directly bring profit to JD, what can Tencent benefit from its free enterprise service?
A case in point is Alibaba’s Dingding. Since its foundation in 2014, Dingding has accumulated over 3 million enterprise clients and over 10,000 third-party ISVs. Last September, Dingding had started to charge these ISVs with a certain amount of platform fee. Last month, Dingding just released its first independently-developed hardware product “M1 Work Attendance Machine”.
However, whether it’s channel fee, hardware or advertisement, revenue is still quite limited. For internet giants, enterprise-level applications are more like a gateway through which it could gather adequate B-end traffic and match with its other businesses.
For example, Dingding’s 3 million mid and small-sized enterprise users can become target users of Aliyun, while their procurement, traveling and dining demands could be integrated to Alibaba’s Tmall, Feizhu and ele.com business.
Based on WeChat Enterprise and TIM, Tencent has similar plans. After grabbing a certain share of the enterprise service market, it is likely that Tencent is going to distribute its traffic and resources to Tencent Cloud, Tencent AI Lab and other partners. “We’ve been using Tencent Cloud’s service extensively. In the future, we wish WeChat Enterprise could open its API and integrate it to public cloud service, which could significantly boost work efficiency,” Zhou Yi, head of Operation and Maintenance of elong.com, added at last.
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Su Jianxun please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.
Originally published at www.tmtpost.com on June 27, 2017.