Explained: China’s Favorite Super App, WeChat.

James Love

Social Commerce, WeChat

March 8, 2019

What Is WeChat?

In order to understand the depth of the WeChat’s reach is nearly unfathomable to comprehend. WeChat and the WeChat Mini Programs are unlike anything ever seen in Western cultures. As the top messaging app in China it is significantly larger than any app known in the United States. Featuring cool new innovative features, that have made everyday life more convenient and fun. Since been launch a little over nine years ago, WeChat has radically changing everyday life in China. Especially, since the launch of WeChat’s Mini Programs where you can essentially an create an e-commerce store within the app. Ultimately, creating an untouchable ecosystem all within the confines of the revolution WeChat app.

The History of Tencent.

Released on January 11, 2011, WeChat was founded by Tencent,a prominent company in China. Tencent, is a multinational investment holding conglomerate, with ventures in entertainment, technology, gaming, internet-related services and artificial intelligence. Where they’re currently based in Shenzhen, China. Tencent is also the parent companies behind successful ventures like, QQ, Ozone and Dungeon Fighter the game.

To fully understand how WeChat came to become the super app it is today and gained over a billion active users, you must start at beginning. Tencent was founded back in 1998 and quickly rose to popularity with the release of OICQ messenger in February 1999. Which later became known as QQ, after allegedly facing legal actions from fellow revival app company. Tencent remain unprofitable throughout the mid 2000’s. Until, they began to expand its brand portfolio into other areas. Starting off with the launch of their search engine, SOSO and licensing their signature games, CrossFire and Dungeon Fighter.

Technology In China.

QQ was the first app that brought notoriety to Tencent. Throughout the years QQ evolved from just offering instant messaging services to offering other services such as: online social games, music, shopping, microblogging, movies, and group and voice chat software. Although, Qzone was founded in 2005 and viewed as one of their earliest social media networks. It still remains WeChat closest competitors in terms of are users with more than 240 million active users. Qzone allows its’ users to write blogs, keep digital diaries, send photos, listen to music and watch videos.

At the turn of the millennium, China had begun to shift from becoming a manufacturing economy to a technology driven economy. Around this same time some China’s biggest technology giants such as Baidu Alibaba and Tencent were founded. Although, China is currently one of the top players in the global technology industry. China and its’ consumers have bypassed a lot of the common steps in technological progressions set Western companies. All in hopes to create new innovate progressions. A great example of this is explaining how china went from the use of cash to mobile payments. Completely skipping widespread use of credit cards. In China credit cards never really became as popular as they did within United States, Europe or Canada. Instead, users opted to use their phones and payment apps like, WeChatPay and Alibaba’s payment app, Alipay.

Technology Advancements In China.

Life in China’s urban cities have ubiquitous with mobile payments. According to Tian Yuag, in his interview with The Atlantic he explains everyday life as, “I use the messaging app WeChat for work calls and vacation bookings. I pay for a cup of coffee or a ride in a car with a scanned QR code on my phone. I go to work at a rented desk in an “experimental life space” called 5Lmeet, built in an old soy-sauce factory, which offers pop-up cuisine, a cashless, staff-less convenience store, and an office space, the entrance gate to which uses face-recognition software to let me in. Every time I come out of a subway stop in Beijing, I have to fight through a mass of the cheap, rentable bicycles that have transformed transportation in the city.”

Even the Chinese government has even taken strides to help push technology forward. With its ambitious plan known as the ‘Made in China 2025’ plan. Seeking to enhance its’ global perception of China. By producing more higher value items and service to shred its’ perception of being the world’s manufacturing hub of cheap goods. This will help improve China’s economy by providing subsidies and low-interest loans for the next few decades. With an aggressive goal of being a global leader in the following offerings: clean-energy cars and artificial intelligence.

The Introduction of WeChat.

Nine years since its conception, WeChat has completely revolutionized the technology industry. With over a billion users, an epic name-change and its’ ingenious WeChat Stores. In recent years, the super app has caught the attention of businesses and investors all seeking expand. With powerful new features such as: buying travel tickets, booking doctors appointments, have a digital government id though the app, ordering a taxi, paying bills and sending money to friends. Solidifying the future of social commerce and proving that WeChat is here to stay.

WeChat has always shown a promising future for Tencent. Within the first year of its launch, they released a new feature ‘find nearby users’, which allowed users to search users that where near them. There was also a name change, the app we know as WeChat used to be called Weixin. The app also hit a major milestone, reaching its first 100 million registered users in a little over 14 months since it was launched.

The Rise of WeChat.

2012 was a great year for Tecncent, as it was  the year the company laid the foundation for WeChat to be the super app it is today. This was also the year that Tencent opened WeChat up to all domestic and international brands. Allowing all companies to create official brand pages. A huge leap for global business which were now able to interact one-on-one with its’ user. Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, but Tencent released new features that allowed Facebook and Twitter. They did this show it was truly a global company.

WeChat also, experienced exponential growth, seemly doubling its’ userbase from 100 million users to 200 million users in six months. Around the same time, Tencent introduced WeChat for BlackBerry in 2012 to countries where having BlackBerry were still deemed as ‘hip’, such as Indonesia and numerous countries through the Middle East. This proved to be a successful way to align itself with something cool outside of China.

How WeChat Has Evoloved.

With the addition of new features like the moments section, which was inspired from Facebook. WeChat proved that in 2013 it was going to dominate the social platforms in China. In fact, within a little over two years since it was launched WeChat was set to surpass China’s favorite social media platform, Weibo. WeChat begun bringing in A-list talent such as, Selena Gomez, John Cusack, Maggie Q, Paris Hilton and Backstreet Boys. They all all signed up for the app so that they could engage with their Chinese fans. This was also Tencent’s first time selling product through the WeChat. Due to the launch of its month-long experiment, where 300 WeChat vending machines popped up in subway stations through Beijing. Where several of the vending machines featured cashless payments through the launch of WeChat’s Wallet and Alibaba’s payment app, Alipay.

Within the next few years, the app made major advances in mobile commerce. With their partnership with Taxi app- Didi, which allowed people to hail a taxi and pay for it all through WeChat. Followed by the growth of WeChat mobile wallet becoming so ramped. WeChat expanded its features to allowing its users to send money to their friends. And the success of mini programs, essentially apps that didn’t require downloads and only ran within the app.  They decided to do the same thing with Games. Turning out to be an immediate success for the company. The games quickly with virtual. So much so, WeChat is now had them valued to be worth for than$ USD 500 billion company. Joining the ranks of other half-trillion giants like Apple, Amazon Alphabet, and Facebook.


The Future of WeChat.

The future of the internet is mobile. The future of commerce in China is WeChat. The top messaging app has over billion users and a steady growing user pool. Its strong global presence is becoming harder to ignore. As the world becomes more connected and consumed by our mobile devices than we ever have before. We’re Innately, causing a rise in purchases made through our mobile devices. And WeChat is here to capitalize off this shift.

China’s rapidly growing economy has a positive effect on the internet use within the country. The more the Chinese consumers make the more time they spend on the internet. Currently, China’s internet popular is over 802 million people, representing approximately $57.7% of the Chinese populations. Of those 802 million people, 788 million users are mobile users and make up 98% of the country’s total internet user base. A huge leap ahead of the US which is estimated to only have 300 million mobile internet users.

China’s internet consumption continues to surpass the United States. According to the 2017 Internet Trends Report by Mary Meeker, on average WeChat receives nearly 30% of all time spent on mobile apps in China. Coupled with, WeChat ability to reach nearly 90% of all messaging app users. Compared to Facebook Messenger that only reaches 30%. WeChat’s influence is soon to be undeniable and incredibly strong.

Why You Should Be Taking Notice.

China’s top messaging app has strongly appealed to the younger and more digitally oriented generation. Majority of its’ users are between the ages of 18-35. This generation has completely embraced the ease that has been brought to their everyday life. The app has morphed into becoming an integral part of their everyday life, nearly 60% of the users within this generation open the app more than 10 times a day and more than 21% open the app close to 50 times a day.

The world and the internet are increasing changing. Companies no longer have the power to dictate the point of sales. Instead, the power now lies with the customer and in China majority of customers prefer to use WeChat. You can no longer ignore WeChat. The app is now a priority for any brands looking to connect with Chinese consumers. Overall, the super app continues serves as great tool for is both small and large companies looking to expand into China. Since the launch of its mini-programs and WeChat stores. Brands can quickly, cheaply and effectively begin to expand their business by selling and interacting directly with Chinese consumers.

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