China’s WeChat: The Power of the Super App
Forget Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, or even Apple and Google app stores, you can have all their functionalities and far more by using the Chinese app WeChat. It is no longer just a messaging app that is used for sending text, voice, and photos to friends and family. It is currently one of the world’s most notable and powerful apps. By leveraging China’s large population, Tencent has successfully turned WeChat into a super app, a one-stop portal where users can access an innumerable number of approved third-party services like hailing a cab, buying movie tickets, ordering food delivery, paying utility bills, or sending money to friends. All of these are integrated and can be done in one single app!
In this context, WeChat is not just a simple application; it is a lifestyle for almost a billion active daily users. As one American venture capitalist puts it, WeChat is there “at every point of your daily contact with the world, from morning until night”. So what makes WeChat become China’s app for everything? How does this Super-App business model work? One of the root causes is that China is the only one true mobile-centric nation in the world. Chinese consumers account for 1.1 billion mobile Internet subscriptions, nearly three times those in the US. Realizing most Chinese reach the Internet via their mobiles, WeChat was made for mobile-first users (people whose first experience with a company will be on a mobile site or app) from the very beginning. It creates an “unstoppable marketing method” for companies and successfully redefines brand-consumer interactions. WeChat official accounts help businesses interact with customers on its platform. They can directly send text messages, images, and videos to their clients on WeChat. In return, customers can get coupons or freebies by following companies on WeChat. This WeChat marketing model has made it easier for a business to have a private communication with subscribers and maintain relations with its customers.
In addition, WeChat is also a platform for mini-programs that amount to over 580,000. It connects users with developers and service providers within the WeChat platform. These mini-programs are sub-applications that can be launched within WeChat’s messaging interface, eliminating the need for end-consumers to leave WeChat and download a separate app for each service from app stores. Currently, more than 170 million consumers are using mini-programs on a daily basis. The more users sign up to WeChat messaging and payment services, the more mini-program developers and service providers are attracted to create mini-programs for the WeChat ecosystem.
And WeChat’s 2018 strategy is to further optimize their mini-program function, taking one step further than official accounts and really providing true app-like experiences without the traditional native apps. Mini Programs can also be linked with official accounts. This new ecosystem allow businesses to further develop their relationship with users. I’m very optimistic about the potential of such business model. Mini Programs can seamlessly link the offline and the online together, which turns WeChat into a mobile operating system. It will undoubtedly revolutionize the WeChat ecosystem and become a new trend in China marketing for all businesses in 2018. As a result of becoming such a ecosystem of services, WeChat can mix its digital business model to better fulfill millions of users’ needs.