WeChat with its 850 million active users makes it arguably the most powerful marketing platform in the world. Whilst everybody is talking about the platform, the hot topic now is how new developments in WeChat service accounts are effecting businesses operating in China.
What the differences between WeChat Subscription and Service accounts? This is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of the WeChat platform for companies & marketers new to China.
Here I’ll unpack, plainly and simply, the differences between these options and argue that service accounts are a far more advanced option for businesses setting up on WeChat.
These are the accounts that are in the ‘subscription folder’ on WeChat. They appear under the ‘subscription heading’ and are accessible only when this page is opened, they will not be visible on the news/chat feed.
These are accounts listed in your personal contacts/chat/moments feed. Updates and content are visible for users on their personal feeds.
Outbound messaging marketing differences
With Subscription accounts you can message once per day to your follower base whilst with service accounts only allow message 4 times per user per month.
On the face of it subscription accounts may seem better for outbound marketing in terms of frequency of direct contact but service accounts also boast a host of more advanced services which give them the advantage..
Service accounts for most companies are more effective
For most companies in-fact a service account is the better option because of the range of marketing/promotional tools provided which a subscription account does not have.
Beyond the initial differences in outbound messaging there are many different, more advanced functions which set the service account apart.
Service accounts offer push notifications – Great visibility & accessibility.
In the chat feed users will see ‘push notifications’ from a service account, they will be notified when new content is posted. Subscription accounts do not offer the same level of visibility as users have to visit their subscription page to see any account updates.
The subscription accounts page is not visible from their main feed where they spend all their time scrolling and browsing.
For visibility, a service account is best because content, updates and the official account itself appears in a user’s personal chat feed.
Service accounts offer WeChat Payment
Subscription accounts cannot actually integrate WeChat payments directly. They could have background service accounts to process payment but this complicates matters.
Service accounts are linked directly with WeChat’s e-wallet service which provides admirable ease of payment via a WeChat store and is part of the e-commerce landscape in China.
WeChat stores set up via a service account are a great way to offer products and services in the most efficient way when it comes to processing payment for the consumer.
Service Accounts offer different QR codes for different channels
Service accounts have a huge advantage in that they offer different QR codes for different channels. QR codes are the main forms of page links on WeChat which when scanned transfer the user directly to a specific outcome.
For example you can set up a QR code for users to scan from a business account and for your website you use another code. This allows you to identify the traffic being generated from specific sources and it important for reliable analysis on the back-end as you can quantify different streams of traffic.
You can even set up different ‘welcome messages’ for different user types/traffic to target potential prospects more closely and intelligently.
Service Accounts allow for tracking channel performances / classification
Separate channel steams can be tagged to provide context – eg scanning QR code at expo, from promotional flyer, at an event, from business account or embedded on website
Back-end data analysis tools are far more advanced when using a service account with services for segmentation, the classification of traffic and lead generation.
Different data from separate channels allows for following up prospects with surveys, it is a far more targeted process.
It’s actually super simple, you are provided with a unique ID with a service account
For subscription accounts however every scan is the same.. there is no way of differentiating..
Customer service messaging
Service accounts offer additional messaging / notification services that subscription accounts do not.
This is different from standard WeChat messaging. Here we have template messaging or event based messaging which does not have to be an individual message to the customer (the typical outbound message offered by the subscription account.. as discussed above).
This is especially important for e-commerce as it can be automated for order confirmations/delivery updates / call for action / feedback messages without using up one of the 4 messages you can send to users per month.
Subscription accounts in contrast only offer standard outbound messaging.
With service accounts you can set up specific templates for different actions or events e.g order confirmations, delivery updates etc.. Templates can also be changed accordingly, for example adding product traffic numbers.
Be careful with template messaging, it is not designed for free outbound marketing, there are limitations and large brands have been known to push the limits resulting in certain restrictions and penalties.
WeChat protects it’s end user from what would be considered ‘spam’ very closely. The event, template message is not meant to be a substitute for an outbound message, rather a complimentary tool for necessary updates. It Is designed to be based on events, rather than ‘marketing’ material as such.
Service accounts provide better user service, from browsing to payment to data collection.
Experience on WeChat is so smooth for sales and ecommerce, customers do not have to enter any details again as a company’s service account already have all the id/log in details from the platform. This ease of use increases conversion rates.
Service accounts have access to this with a far more developed back-end for data collection and analysis of users’ profiles engaging with your official service account.
Subscription accounts do have some advantages.. Don’t completely write them off!
Nothing in life is black and white. Subscription accounts can still be used to support a service account, or in some instances be more applicable for purely content focused businesses.
For example an online magazine or blog would benefit from the subscription accounts daily messaging service.
There is the possibility of opening multiple accounts, some subscription and others service if your business has different arms / purposes but this needs to be looked at on a case by case basis.
You have to do your homework and realize your needs. Currently you can upgrade a subscription account to service, but you should not not rely on this in the long term, the rules have changed a number of times and you could risk risk having to start over again..
For e-commerce / sales / lead generation businesses a service account is more powerful in terms of you exposure and outreach. Overall with the service accounts more advanced features it is the wisest choice for a savy business in China.
If you want to open a wechat and need more explanation , feel be free to contact us.