How to grow your business with WeChat

How to grow your business with WeChat
External Guest Writer
November 1, 2020

WeChat has grown to 1.2 billion monthly active users in less than a decade. This impressive growth established the App as the uncontested leader of messaging and social applications in China.

Currently, in China, the common platform for business owners to promote their brand and offer their products is WeChat. Here's how you can get started with growing your business in China through WeChat.

What is WeChat?

As the largest social app in China, WeChat is as acombination of Paypal, Messenger, and Facebook. There are three core componentsto the app that are especially important for merchants:

●      WeChat chat interface. A similar chatting port to WhatsAppor Facebook Messenger.

●      WeChat wallet. The section where users can accessmoney transfers, payment services, flight and movie tickets, etc.

●      WeChat moments. The spot for users to post or getnews from their WeChat friends, like the Facebook timeline.

With a merge of social media, chat, and payment features, WeChat has become a reliable tool for e-commerce businesses in the Chinese market. So, how can you begin promoting on WeChat as a brand? From setting up your WeChat store to marketing your store to users on WeChat, follow these steps.

Start selling on WeChat

Visit the WeChat sales channel page to learn more about the incorporation between WeChat and Shopify.

Sell on WeChat

Brand page setup on WeChat

Instead of brand posts appearing on the main social timeline, WeChat’s brand posts appear in the chat interface.

On WeChat, a brand page is called a  “WeChat Official Account.”

For marketing, two kinds of WeChat Official Accounts exist:

1. WeChat subscription accounts. Appearing in a “subscription” folder that requires users to click open to see the latest articles, these less visible accounts are open to daily posts (one push notification each day).

2. WeChat service accounts. They appear side-by-side with an user friends in the chat section of the App. These accounts are much more visible than subscription accounts, but have a limit of 4 push notifications per month.

Both Subscription and Service accounts allow you to send an unlimited number of messages to any user who directly messages the account. As the user proactively writes to the account, these communications are counted as “customer service messages", and will not be deducted from the account's daily or monthly quota. Businesses can answer customer service messages within 48 hours after receiving the last communication from a WeChat user.

Users will be able to open their subscription account folder or a service account to get updated on the brand’s published articles.

How to start a WeChat Official Account

Begin creating a WeChat Official Account by clicking this link and following the steps below:

1. Choose your country.

2. Choose your account type (with an overseas account, your exclusive option will be Service Account).

3. Submit the needed materials from WeChat.

4. Confirm your phone number via SMS verification.

5. Pay the fee of $99 USD to verify.

6. Accept a WeChat representative’s verification call to verify and review your application.

Make a WeChat store

Basically an e-commerce experience fixed within WeChat, a WeChat store can make a brand’s products accessible to users straight in the WeChat app.

A few distinct features WeChat stores benefit from:

● WeChat stores can be found within WeChat

● Customers may use WeChat payments to complete their purchase

● WeChat’s quick and easy one-click log-in for customers to validate themselves

● WeChat stores user’s shipping addresses, providing a pre-fill service

● A greater incorporation with WeChat influencer campaigns

● Direct links for a WeChat article to a WeChat store available for influencers

● Open to offer a built-in shopping experience for your customers

One of the main benefits of a WeChat store compared to a traditional website is WeChat’s unique integration with influencer campaigns.

Additionally, since the user’s path is made optimal for WeChat, there are much higher conversion rates.

This merger of social and e-commerce has been unbelievably successful in China. Influencer Becky Li sold a whopping 100 mini-coopers within only 5 minutes on WeChat in 2018!

How to create a WeChat store

Different from Google Listings or Facebook Shops in the sense that WeChat indirectly provides WeChat stores, WeChat offers a toolkit (SDK and API) that uses a unique programming language that lets business owners set up WeChat stores themselves instead.

To generate the WeChat store, the programming language utilized is based on the omnipresent JavaScript language.

To create a WeChat mini-program store, you are given two choices as a merchant:

1. Utilize a Software-as-a-Service WeChat store provider. Enabling brands to launch a WeChat store efficiently and for a low cost, many will opt for an SaaS provider.

2. Develop a store in-house. This requires a dedicated and ideally Chinese-speaking development group. This is the common choice of larger brands or influencers that prefer total control and authority over their mini-programs.

SaaS providers of WeChat stores

With over thousands of inconsistent players, the market for WeChat store providers is considered very disintegrated. However, some are worthy to be mentioned:

Youzan. Offering a wide variety of features on their WeChat stores such as gamification, group buying, and affiliate sales, this company is probably the most well-known WeChat store provider. They currently run thousands of stores in Mainland China, ranging from small stores to big enterprises including DELL.

Weidian. Without needing a fee to start (providing you to keep the Weidian branding), Weidian stores are a more affordable version of Youzan. You will be asked to pay only in order to have access to some of the advanced features. But, Weidian has less features than Youzan due to its lower position in pricing.

Weimob. More diversified than Youzan or Weidian, Weimob is another major player in the WeChat store provider market. Weimob provides many WeChat mini-programs (apps), spanning industries such as hotels, hairdressers, and restaurants instead of only supplying e-commerce stores. That’s why in Mainland China, Weimob is used by many small- to medium-sized businesses.

WalktheChat. Concentrated on cross-border WeChat stores (merchants abroad promoting themselves in China), WalktheChat supports cross-border payments, has an English-language back-end, and integrates with Shopify which enables you to synchronize orders, products, and inventory. Disclaimer: This article’s author is affiliated with WalktheChat.

You’ll become visible on WeChat once your store is set up. Keep in mind that launching a WeChat store is the same as launching a website: there won’t be any business coming for you unless you are promoting it. Take a look at some possible ways to attract customers to your WeChat store.

Advertising on WeChat

The three main advertising methods on WeChat are: WeChat Moment ads, WeChat Mini-program ads, as well as WeChat article ads.

WeChat Moment ads

Like the Facebook mobile timeline ads, WeChat Moment ads are on the main WeChat social timeline (aka WeChat Moments).

WeChat Moment ads bring users to a landing page that can lead to a website, Mini-program, or download page on App stores.

Since these ads are the most visible of all WeChat ads, itmeans that they are also the most pricey, with a CPM (cost per 1,000impressions) of around 65 RMB ($9.1 USD).

WeChat Mini-program ads

Advertisement display within WeChat Mini-programs is also allowed.

Acting like advertising banners on newspapers, these ads enable developers of a Mini-program to locate the places where they would allow ads to be displayed. Then, to increase user engagement, WeChat optimizes the sort of ad, and the Mini-program developer gets a share of the ad revenue.

In WeChat games, Mini-program ads can also show up as interstitial ads.

The ad links may bring users to a new website, a game on the App Store, a WeChat coupon, a WeChat Official Account, or another Mini-program.

With a CPM of around 11 RMB (1.5 USD), WeChat Mini-program ads are a much more affordable option compared to WeChat moment ads.

WeChat Article ads

Scroll to the very end of an article from a different WeChat Official Account to find WeChat article ads.

Like the WeChat Mini-program ads, these ads are similar to website advertising banners. WeChat accounts will be given a share of revenue if they decide to enable these ads.

WeChat article ads usually forward users to websites, WeChat coupons, mini-programs, App stores or WeChat Official Accounts.

With a CPM of about 6 RMB (0.8 USD), article ads are amongthe cheapest advertising methods on WeChat.

Different ad formats comparison

Which one of these three advertisement methods is the best for brands? Keep in mind a few guidelines:

● WeChat moment ads are significant for generating awareness to brands, but have an exceedingly high CPM. If you wish to promote your brand and aren’t as concentrated on conversions, they are the best fit for you.

● WeChat Mini-program ads are displayed in visible locations of WeChat Mini-programs with a growing number of engagements. They don’t cost much and are perfect for WeChat followers or sales conversion.

● WeChat article ads are the cheapest choices, but also the option that will likely receive the lowest engagement level. For campaigns seeking follower growth or retargeting, they are recommended.

How to access your WeChat advertising account

Log in to your WeChat Official Account and click on “Advertiser” in the “Promotion” tab of the left menu to activate your WeChat advertising account.

The following page will be shown in Chinese, but you can translate it to English using Google Translate. Click on the “Advertiser” button.

For the next few pages, just review and accept the terms of use. Also, to finish the application, choose your company’s industry.

Remember that:

● Real-estate, supplement and financial industry accounts will get rejected systematically

● Fashion industry accounts are the ones that are most likely to pass the verification

● You may need to ask one of WeChat’s partner marketing agencies for help with the process if you’re not able to pass the verification on your own

Case study: Botkier New York brings the Chinese market designer bags

Enabling a simple approach with an extremely affordable cost compared to launching on B2C marketplaces like Tmall or via distributors offline, new brands wishing to launch in China will find WeChat stores to be a strong, aiding tool.

Botkier New York is a contemporary accessories line, as well as a merchant on Shopify Plus, that launched in 2003. They wanted to enter the Chinese market through starting with Chinese social media (WeChat and Weibo) then traffic-sale conversion.

Botkier began growing their business in China by creating WeChat and Weibo accounts, a WeChat store, and additional sales-driven marketing campaigns on WeChat and Weibo.

In late August, Botkier launched their store and widely benefited from their promotion on Single’s Day (the largest shopping festival in the world that is organized by Alibaba on November 11th every year).

Botkier's investment in WeChat and Weibo marketing led to significant results:

● 750,000 Users Gained during their Single’s Days promotions

● 960% Return on Investment after operating for 3 months

● 600% Growth  of their followers on WeChat during their Single’s Day promotion

Botkier dug deep into their product’s organic interest and chose influencer marketing to quicken their momentum and to produce growth. It is accurate to say that the key to Botkier’s success in China was the merge of a Shopify-integrated WeChat store, high-ROI paid influencer campaigns, and targeted gifting to relevant influencers.

Sell your products in China through WeChat

In China, WeChat is no doubt a powerful ecosystem for launching brands.

Brands can secure their stance in the Chinese market fast, creating the opportunity for themselves to further expand on other platforms like Tmall or distribution partnerships offline by utilizing cross-border payments and influencers.

This article was authored by WalktheChat, an agency that helps brands sell via Chinese social networks.