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WeChat: China's social phenomenon

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What exactly is WeChat and why is it crucial to your Chinese digital marketing strategy? We’ve got all the answers in this next instalment of our APAC blog series.


If you’re looking to expand your brand into the Chinese market, you’ve probably come across the name WeChat. But what exactly is WeChat and, why is it crucial to your Chinese digital marketing strategy?

We’ve got all the answers below.


What is WeChat?

WeChat is one of the largest players in China’s mobile-centric digital landscape, making it a vital platform for digital marketeers. With over 700 million downloads and 300 million active users, WeChat is one of the most popular social apps in the world. It is a valid competitor to WhatsApp and Viber and is the number one mobile app in China.

While these figures still pale in comparison to Facebook’s 1 billion daily global users, these social media giants of Western society (Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram etc.) don’t work in China unless you’re on a virtual private network, therefore Tencent-owned WeChat has a tight grip on China’s social and mobile industry and dominates the market. The three stats below show the scale of WeChat’s reach in China:


75% of mobile users feel uncomfortable without accessing WeChat for 17 mins

55% of WeChat users check their friends’ new updates at least 10 times every day

25% of WeChat users check their friends’ new updates at least 30 times every day


With such a strong cultural hold over the population, it has been dubbed ‘the Facebook of China’ and is an essential advertising platform with opportunity for high brand exposure.


More Than Just Messages

WeChat is the epitome of a multi-purpose app. Its so much more than just another social media platform. Users can pay bills and manage their bank accounts, order food, buy clothes and movie tickets, book doctor’s appointments, check transport and catch up on news stories.

With these numerous functions, WeChat is a multitude of apps all rolled into one – it’s often the only app consumers need to use.


WeChat’s place in social eCommerce

As more and more of China’s internet users connect via a mobile device, apps like WeChat are also encouraging more cashless transactions. Mobile payments are taking over from bank cards and, social apps are taking over from banking apps: in 2016, 200 million transactions were made via banking apps compared to 1,200 million transactions made via non-banking apps, such as WeChat.

This makes WeChat a vital platform for brands who want to tailor their digital strategy to the Chinese market. Driving sales through social platforms must become a priority.


WeChat’s Challenges

WeChat does pose a few challenges for brands who want to use it as a marketing platform. For example, unlike Instagram, it doesn’t operate on algorithms, so messages from brands to consumers can be missed.

There are also two options for brand accounts on WeChat: a subscription account that lets brands push out one message per day or a service account that caps the number of brand messages to one a week. Both contain limitations for advertisers. This makes it even more critical that you have a tailored content strategy and are creating strong digital campaigns.

Despite these challenges, WeChat’s prime place in the Chinese market can’t be ignored. The similarities it poses to the Facebook of a few years ago is uncanny. Looking back, Facebook’s advertising revenue has exploded in the last few years and its market share of digital ad spend along with it. Could WeChat could be heading the same way? We think so. It’s a vital marketing platform for any brand looking to expand into the China / APAC region and ultimately one that should be capitalised on.


Artefact have offices across China and the APAC region. To discuss how your business could benefit from our knowledge of digital marketing across APAC, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat.