Wechat has been launched 5 years ago by Tencent. It was only a text messenger app at this time and nobody believed that today it could be a community of more than half a million people.
Since Internet was born and the first social media came out, many companies emerged and grown on this vibe where people like to be now, and China is not an exception.
How this app became in few years a reference and make millions of Chinese people using it on their everyday life ?
To understand the Wechat mecanic, it is important to know how it grown and in which environnement it happenned.
The Chinese King of social media, a success story !
Wechat was released the january, 21st 2011 in the middle of messaging app revolution. Tencent Holdings was persuade they have a shot in this time.
In only five years Wechat became a sucess story which is both unique and innovative. During this period of time, Wechat passed to only a message app to an app which helps Chinese people in their everyday life.
In 2011, Wechat was launched and users could send text messages, images and vocal messages also to others subscribers via internet like WhatsApp a smartphone application popular in the United States.
At the end of the year, there were 100 million users on Wechat. However Wechat did not stop there. After some months they developped news features in order to get their users more statisfied, to create an app dedicated to the users everyday life and to purpose something different from their competitors.
Source : Wall Street Journal
The main Wechat’s assets during this competition times were to produce features in very short time. So with the text and vocal messages, sharing pictures and videos, geolocation in order to find nearby contacts arrived also before the end of the first anniversary.
In april 2012, Wechat was released on the worldwild market and nowadays there are 800 millions users using this app (600 millions in China & 200 millions outside of China).
Wechat was not the first on the market during the release in 2011. WhatsApp, Kik and Viber were already implemented in China since around one entire year. In 2011, in the same time of Wechat’s release Facebook Messenger and Line arrived also.
However Wechat had relevant features that dust their competitors but Wechat went further. In order to perfect his dominance Wechat has at his disposal the Tencent’s massive QQ users bases.
The environment had an impact on the game
In 2010, the mobile market in China especially in regards of foreign countries was not a high priority target. If competitors would like to implent in Chinese Mobile Market it should be during this time.
Some companies did, but they faced a strong wall : The Chinese Government Regulations
WhatsApp and Kik already knew the Chinese market at this time,.However their attention were monopolised on Western and on the United States markets.
Create an Text Messaging App is one thing, implement it into the Chinese market is an another. Facebook Messenger had this problem and they are still spending time and money in order to penetrate this market. So for a foreign company it could be crippy to be part of such an adventure.
To enter into a market it is important to understand the users need but it is crucial to not underestimate the micro and macro environment factors.
One is making his way on the Chinese market : Line, a service developped by a Korean company.
It is a Wechat’s competitor and their services can be comparable. A partnership has been established between Line and the tech giant Qihoo in order to favorise the implementation in the mainland by developping a specific app for China. Line also began to censor political subjects or everything too sensitive for the China’s Regulators.
However Line has been censored many times (especially during the Great firewall in 2014) and this complications slowed it down and Wechat built his nest in China without problem.
Doing local, think global
Even if some of Wechat’s competitors seem to work sometimes in China, they are just surrounded by Wechat which became a real mastodon. This battle seems to be like « David vs Goliath » and it definitely turns in favor of Wechat.
Wechat became an easy way to communicate with friends for free and even more. It became an easy way to deal with the life in general like sharing pictures, buzz, order a taxi, pay with a mobilephone, book a ticket or pay electricity bills . It is a « all-in one » which perfectly feet to China and surely the world. That’s why outsiders just failed. It has been a smart move from Tencent to raise his child (Wechat). They developped it by adapting Wechat to the market (User Experience) that was well known by Tencent which was a reference in social media since the beginning of social media and still be.
Wechat sucess story does not to be prouved, it is a fact now because of the services, the advantages and his ability to adapt itself to the Chinese market. However will it feet to the world wild market with different rules, environment, people and culture ? The futur will tell us if Wechat will win this challenge.
Read also :
- Marketing in China on Wechat
- Wechat in China
- About Gentlemen
- Social Media partner in China
- Wechat Tips in China
- Wechat trends (in French)