Many people have been asking us what is the key to WeChat Marketing success as well as the following question; “Is WeChat crucial in order to do business in China?”, and the answer is: Yes! WeChat is not just a single app, it is a whole ecosystem that can be very useful for companies trying to enter the Chinese market.
In order to explain the impact WeChat can have when it comes to marketing, we have created this guide based on our experience as a Digital Marketing Agency and we will give you some tips and advice on Wechat Marketing followed by more information on the app and its users base for more context.
What is WeChat?
Created by the Chinese company Tencent and released in 2011, WeChat was at the beginning only a mobile messaging app. And even though new features were introduced, this functionality remains the core of the app. Marketed as Weixin (微信) in China, it was then rebranded as WeChat in 2012 for the international market.
Worldwide, WeChat is one of the leading social networks, ranking fifth in terms of active user number, and becoming a lucrative marketing platform with its plethora of different functionalities. Its success relies on the fact that WeChat was able to integrate almost all the features that made the success of the world’s most popular networks.
As you have probably understood, if you want to do business in China, you will have to know how to use WeChat because that’s how pretty much everyone in China communicates nowadays, both in personal life and at work.
Why does WeChat matter for businesses?
WeChat is not only a messaging app, it has numerous features, such as ‘Moments’. The majority of WeChat users open their WeChat Moments every time they open the app. Audio and text messages, group messaging, payment, and games are some examples of WeChat functionalities. The app also allows users to follow official accounts. On average, 49.3% of WeChat users are following between 10 to 20 WeChat accounts. In other words, the app is too big to ignore if you want to be seen as a legit company.
As of 2019, around 24% of the WeChat users followed less than ten official WeChat accounts. Almost half of the users followed between ten and 20 official accounts.
Wechat in daily life
WeChat is part of Chinese people’s daily life, from the beginning to the end of the day, privately and in professional life. This could be explained by the fact the app is a well-developed ecosystem on top of being a convenient messenger app.
Why Should You Use WeChat Marketing in China?
We’ve seen it, WeChat is the app you need to go by in China, there is no denying that. With a major chunk of the population using the app (1.3 billion as of 2023), brands and companies have quickly invested in the multiple tools offered by Tencent to professionals. So much so that it’s become almost suspicious for a business not to own a WeChat Official Account.
By using the WeChat app, even the smallest companies can build a strong and healthy basis for growth in the Middle Kingdom.
Some of the reasons why WeChat marketing strategy matters
- As of today, WeChat is the main tool of communication in China – Privately and professionally.
- WeChat ecosystem allows you to offer many options and features to your consumers and other social media users within just one app
- WeChat is the best alternative to email marketing & emailing in general
- Content in a format that is more adapted to Chinese netizens’ habits (H5 brochure, WeChat posts, WeChat Official Accounts, WeChat Channels, etc.)
- WeChat Mini-programs & stores – integrated mini-apps that do not require to be downloaded & installed
- WeChat Official Account is the best tool for credibility
- Better communication with customers through WeChat Menu & Wechat CRM
How does WeChat marketing benefit your business in China?
WeChat is not just an app, it’s a whole ecosystem of services and functionalities that are especially appreciated by companies doing marketing on WeChat. However WeChat is very different from Western apps, so you will have to understand how it works and also understand the Chinese market beforehand. You have to keep in mind that WeChat accounts (both service accounts and subscription accounts) are used as a collaborative work platform for your employees but also as part of your marketing strategy.
With more than 20 million WeChat official accounts registered, the competition is tough for everyone, especially for new and smaller companies. However, the best way to promote your business is to be creative and innovative in order to stand out amongst your competitors.
To do so, you will have to produce quality content, create loyalty programs, and offer vouchers and promotions to your loyal consumers, but also be responsive to their demand, and analyze how they react to your marketing campaigns to adapt your strategy.
WeChat Marketing Tools & Paid Advertising
WeChat Official Accounts
For effective WeChat marketing, it’s crucial to have a business account. Your first move should be to set up a public account on the platform, and we highly recommend opting for an official WeChat account. Why is this?
- Engage prospective clients.
- Enhance brand recognition.
- Deliver push alerts to followers.
- Foster customer allegiance.
- Direct users to the company’s website or e-commerce page.
- Enhanced visibility equates to increased trustworthiness.
Captivating, top-tier content is essential for drawing in an audience. With an official account, not only do you enjoy amplified interaction with your audience, but you can also launch genuine WeChat advertising initiatives.
As a result, numerous international brands prefer WeChat as their primary advertising channel. WeChat provides two account types suitable for brands: Service and Subscription accounts.
In general, there are two main types of WeChat official accounts for marketing purposes: WeChat subscription account and WeChat service account. We recommend starting with a service account, as it offers more options and is better for foreign brands.
WeChat Service accounts feature within the chat interface like any regular contact, thus providing superior visibility compared to Subscription accounts. However, they have a limit of four posts monthly. These accounts are the top choice for the majority of brands and the sole option for international businesses.
On the other hand, Subscription accounts are bundled into a category labeled “subscriptions” within WeChat’s chat interface. With these accounts, you have the liberty to send multiple push notifications daily to your followers.
WeChat mini-programs are widely popular with many international companies. For example, thanks to the platform’s Mini Programs, third-party “apps” that run in WeChat without requiring downloads, increased to more than one million in 2018 and were used by brands such as Burberry, H&M, Dior, and Longchamp.
These mini-programs are highly appreciated because they are easy to code, are cost-efficient, and have similar functionalities to websites. However, advertising on WeChat is not only limited to mini-programs.
Wechat H5 Brochures
One of the best tools for WeChat business accounts is the possibility to create a WeChat H5 Brochure. These brochures offer a highly engaging experience that catches the user’s attention and can easily generate new leads and sales.
So, you should consider this way of promotion as part of your marketing strategy. Those brochures can work in the form of mini-websites or catalogs, showcasing your products and brand.
WeChat Paid Advertising
WeChat Ads are always a hot topic in China, some people will preach their effectiveness whilst others will be more skeptical. The key is budget allocation, WeChat ads do require a higher level of initial investment than other social media platforms. You need to ask yourself: “What’s the point of using WeChat ads?” In reality, the purpose is to attract followers while engaging new ones.
WeChat Moments Advertisement
Launched in 2015, 25 brands including Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz took part in the first testing campaign of the WeChat Moments ads. Advertising on WeChat Moments can be effective for brands that already have a certain level of engagement in China.
WeChat Banner Ads
These banners are very much like the ad banners you would see on a website. In the context of WeChat, they are featured at the bottom of a message written by an Official WeChat Account. They can drive users to follow the WeChat Official Account, download an app, claim a coupon code, buy a product, etc.
WeChat Mini-program Ads
These types of ads are similar to banner ads on official WeChat articles, but instead of being featured on official accounts, they occupy different spots in mini-programs. They can be also displayed while launching a mini-program and can be both static and dynamic.
WeChat SEO & Content Marketing for eReputation Building
On top of increasing your visibility, WeChat is a powerful tool to increase your e-reputation. Chinese consumers like to follow brands and communicate with their representatives. Communicating with consumers is indeed mandatory if you want to succeed in China.
By creating a relationship with your consumers, they will be more likely to buy your products and share their opinions on platforms like Zhihu (知乎).
Word of mouth on WeChat
WeChat is a closed social media (not everyone can see your post, you can’t see everyone’s posts), so it can be challenging to grow a following there. The app also has not been known to be ads-friendly (although it is slowly changing).
Because the app is “private”, shares are more meaningful. In general, who do you trust more? A random on the internet or a good friend of yours? You are more likely to trust a friend’s recommendation than a random one on the internet.
What is the search tool on WeChat (SEO)?
If you have WeChat, you have probably already noticed that there’s a search icon on the app. In fact, it is a search engine function within the app that allows you to find everything related to a brand in the WeChat / Tencent environment.
Using this search tool, you will be able to display various contents such as:
- Official Account & Mini-Program
- Content from the internet via the Sogou (搜狗) search engine
- Brand Zone
- WeChat moments
- H5 brochure & official Account Posts
- Products & Third-Party Services (Zhihu, Douban, Mafengwo, etc)
- Links to e-commerce platforms
- WeChat Channels
- Novels via the Tencent platform
To go faster, you can also apply filters to easily find pictures, and videos, look on the Wiki, and Q&A. Take note that you will also be able to see everything that is related to the brand on your friends’ WeChat moments.
As you can see on this screenshot of Dior on WeChat search, brands have the choice between a few layouts in order to display content in their brand zone.
WeChat KOLs: A Good Way to Gain Visibility
If you want to sell your products in the Chinese market, you have to know that influencers or Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are highly appreciated in order to increase a company’s visibility and sell products. Some of these KOLs are even more popular than Chinese celebrities and that’s why Chinese consumers really trust them. However, finding the right KOL who will be able to promote your brand is not an easy task.
As a Digital agency in China for many years, we were able to gather quite a few KOLs, and we will be happy to introduce them to you if you want to work with them in order to promote your products in China.
Be aware that if you sell beauty products or apparel, having a KOL to promote your brand is highly recommended. For example, the most famous KOL in China is Li Jiaqi (or Austin Li) known as the “King of Lipstick”.
Developing loyalty programs on WeChat
One of the favorite ways for marketers to actively promote their brand is to convert their followers into members. This way, they can focus their marketing strategy on creating loyalty programs using geo-location services to send vouchers and promotions to consumers in a certain area for example.
The three main strategies of a loyalty program are:
- Offering them a VIP card through your app or mini-program
- Send vouchers directly on Wechat
- Give e-coupons that they can exchange in stores or on your website
Using O2O such as QR codes
The O2O (Online to Offline) strategy is very well-developed in China. In order to promote your brand’s WeChat account, you can print and put your WeChat QR codes everywhere in your stores and on the package of your products, but also on social media apps (like Weibo) and websites.
This allows consumers to directly scan your QR code and add your WeChat account as soon as they enter your store or buy your products. For example, you can put a QR code on a banner ad, let the consumers scan the QR code on WeChat, then use geo-location to redirect them to the nearest store.
Drive Traffic to your WeChat Account with a Chinese Website
Compared to Western standards, Chinese standards are very different. While Western consumers prefer a clean and refined design, Chinese consumers like colorful web pages with lots of information, animations, and pictures. Targeting Chinese consumers also means that you will need to adapt your content to Mandarin Chinese, using simplified characters.
The goal is to be understood and gain their attention at the same time, so they can browse your website and potentially buy your products. On top of that, a website in Mandarin will also increase your SEO on search engines such as Baidu and you will gain visibility. It is also recommended to have your website hosted in China, with “.cn”.
WeChat Social E-commerce Platform
As of 2023, more than 95% of brands available on WeChat have their own stores or mini-programs within the app. Chinese users spend an average of 500 RMB per month on WeChat’s e-commerce platform. It has become unavoidable for any brand wanting to do business in China to use WeChat.
Furthermore, WeChat Pay allows users to pay in stores. On WeChat, you can also open an e-shop and sell your products. WeChat stores are becoming more and more popular, as social e-commerce is taking China’s retail market by storm. Now consumers prefer to look for products on platforms like WeChat or Douyin, as it’s easier to share those products with friends.
WeChat Online Stores: How Does it Work?
If you want to be part of What’s online stores, you can choose between two options:
- You can create your Wechat mini-program which will be directly available on your Wechat Official Account. You will be able to customize your interface and advertise, promote, and sell your products directly through WeChat. Moreover, WeChat Pay is extremely convenient and accessible for users, which can generate a lot of impulse purchases.
- You can also choose to link your official website to your WeChat account instead of creating a new one. This means that when users click on the link, they will be redirected to your official website, so you can manage your online store more easily. But be aware Chinese consumers don’t like purchasing on official websites and it’s not a recommended option.
How to Take Advantage of WeChat for Your Business?
The importance of having a verified business account
Many companies have a WeChat account that people can follow, subscribe to, and add to their network. However, as there are many verified accounts there are also a lot of non-verified accounts. A verified account shows that WeChat recognizes that the account is official and shares high-quality and creative content.
Thanks to that recognition, the brand can attract consumers by posting high-quality media content such as videos, pictures, and text messages for their followers. On another hand, consumers are more comfortable when they know that the WeChat account is verified and they will be more likely to subscribe.
What does it mean for you to have a verified business account?
In addition to the trust you will gain from your potential customers, there are also some functionalities and other features that will be unlocked as soon as the verification process is complete. This verification process costs 300 RMB (roughly 45 USD) per year for the Chinese platform and 99 USD per year for the international platform.
However, if you don’t want to waste time and reduce the amount of paperwork and process, you can contact us and we will create a verified account on WeChat for you. You also have to take note that your account’s verified status will remain active for one year from the date of the verification.
Applying for a Business Account on WeChat
There used to be some tough restrictions on who could register a WeChat business account and this is why there were two versions of WeChat, one for Chinese users and the other for international users.
The Chinese WeChat was only in Chinese and required to have a Chinese ID, a Chinese phone number, and a business license. The international WeChat was limited to a foreign audience. Thankfully today, international official WeChat accounts are visible to every Wechat user.
The process of applying is not really complicated, but it does require a certain amount of time and preparation. Firstly, you will have to submit a list of documents proving that your business is legitimate. The process will depend on your business and on the account you want to apply for. Finally, you can directly submit your application via the WeChat website and then patiently wait for about two weeks.
Contact Us to Get Started on WeChat
The Chinese market is one of the most promising in the world in terms of opportunities, both for smaller companies like startups, but also for larger international companies. But in order to succeed, you will need to adapt your marketing strategies to local demands and methods, such as using the most popular platform in China: WeChat.
To do so, you will need to do a lot of research beforehand and develop a strong marketing and communication strategy. However, expanding activities in China is not an easy task, as 50% of brands fail because they don’t understand the Chinese market well enough. Working with specialists in the Chinese market is the key to success.
Designing the right digital marketing strategy is therefore key. Working with an agency that has both Western and Chinese points of view like Gentlemen Marketing Agency can help you overcome the pitfalls of the Chinese market.
Our agency has developed the marketing strategy on WeChat for many companies. We have collaborated with many companies, helping them with their WeChat marketing strategies and our experts are here to help you develop yours in China.
Our services for WeChat marketing:
- Mini/Micro-Site Development
- Ad Campaign Management
- Content Promotion Strategy (Organic)
- WeChat Content Creation & Formatting
- Reporting & Analytics
- HTML5 Content & Account Development
- WeChat CRM & Menu
Of course, if you have questions or need more information about our services, do not hesitate to contact us so we can talk about your projects.