What’s new from Chinese mega-app WeChat?

WeChat, the ubiquitous social networking app of China’s tech giant Tencent, has already been with us for seven years, astonishingly. And it is so powerful that we often overlook its significance and pervasiveness. On Nov. 9th 2017, the WeChat team presented the latest key insights from WeChat Lifestyle during the Tencent Global Partners Conference, an event held in Chengdu’s Western China International Expo City.

Despite its success, WeChat continues to seek opportunities to evolve and expand. For example, it has launched Mini Programs and Enterprise Weixin, and it continues to promote its WeChat Pay functionality overseas. At the conference, the messaging giant showcased developments to its ecosystem with the 2017 WeChat Data Report update, as well as gave numerous presentations about Mini Programs and Enterprise Weixin.

2017 WeChat Data Report

In a presentation delivered by Frank Fu, Manager of Data Analytics for WeChat’s Core Product Team, WeChat announced that it had a staggering 902 million daily logged-in users in September 2017, with a 17% year-over-year growth.

The report also showcased that in September monthly active senior Wechat users, which Tencent defines as those between 55 and 70 years old, reached 50 million. Yet, according to to Chinese tech news site ifanr, some 240 million senior users still lack access to the platform. The report also described a 25% year-over-year increase in sent messages, a 135% increase in monthly connected calls, as well as significant increases in Official Accounts and WeChat Pay use.
This means that WeChat has covered major segments of users across the social networking industry in China, and further user incremental gains will be earned by attracting senior users and as well as users from overseas markets. We’ve already witnessed evidence of Tencent’s ambition to achieve this with the company facilitating its WeChat Pay functionality in Hong Kong and South Africa. Tencent has likewise already enabled Chinese tourists to use WeChat Pay for shopping in over a dozen countries around the world.

Photo from 699pic.com

Mini Programs

Since their launch in January of this year, Mini Programs, the “sub-applications” within the WeChat ecosystem, have enabled developers to provide users with advanced features such as e-commerce, task management, coupons, and so on. These Mini Programs are infiltrating more and more business and life industry sectors by further connecting businesses and customers. According to Tencent, Mini Programs will develop in the following three directions:

  1. Mini Programs and code technology: As we know, Mini Programs can be launched with the scanning of a QR code, which is much easier than having to download and register via a separate app. Meanwhile, WeChat’s massive traffic of 900+ million users can enjoy Mini Programs, which can be customized for various real-world scenarios and come with highly specialized features.
  2. WeChat group chats and Mini Programs: Users can share Mini Programs via group chats within the messaging platform. Mini Program developers can then collect data after the user has opened the Mini Program from within a group chat. Recordable metrics include user actions, time spent on Mini Programs, and so on. These analytics will help the company further optimize Mini Program functionality.
  3. Connecting Mini Programs and WeChat official accounts: Now WeChat Official Accounts can link to Mini Programs to realize specific functions, such as e-commerce support, information gathering, and coupon distribution. Mini Programs are  complementary to WeChat official accounts’ commercial scenes.

In conclusion, Tencent is bringing huge traffic to Mini Programs and is all the while decreasing the difficulty in developing Mini Programs. Mini Programs are particularly supportive in B2C (Business to Customer) cases, as they effortlessly maintain users based on the WeChat infrastructure. Meanwhile, WeChat also saves costs on acquiring new users as opposed to traditional forms of online advertising.

For example, Starbucks released “Say It With Starbucks”, a Mini Program that enables users to send gifts or easily purchase a coffee for a friend via WeChat. The Starbucks Mini Program integrates with WeChat’s Wallet and WeChat’s Red Pocket, allowing for a seamless and efficient purchase experience. Aside from sending friends coupons purchased on the “Say It With Starbucks” Mini Program, users can also send gift coupons via WeChat Red Packet Merchants. When users receive coupons via WeChat, the coupon prompts them to launch the Mini Program. Users can optionally select to “one-tap” register with the Mini Program and automatically share their basic WeChat details to the Mini Program to complete a registration. They need not fill in blanks or fill out forms to register for coupon use.

Additionally, social e-commerce on WeChat is witnessing notable growth. Mogu Street, for instance, attracted over 20 million users via Mini Programs. Impressively, social e-commerce traffic on WeChat more than doubles that of popular online retailer JD.com.

Photo from 699pic.com

Enterprise Weixin

Enterprise Weixin is a “new WeChat” specially designed for enterprise organizations. It is based on the WeChat ecosystem and likewise acquires new users easily. Conventionally, during introduction procedures, new employees are required to add new colleagues via the entering of WeChat usernames or the scanning of QR codes. This method requires significant time and energy. With the introduction of Enterprise Weixin, however, registered enterprises will have a unique group, to which the enterprise need not add colleagues via traditional methods. Instead, through Enterprise Weixin, new employees can register to the company’s group, and they will become searchable by name by colleagues within the company.

Tencent is empowering Enterprise Weixin with more capacities to support more enterprises and organizations of varying size. Moreover, WeChat offers WeChat electronic receipts support, which connects WeChat Pay, WeChat Wallet, and Enterprise Weixin in an effort to provide businesses and customers with a better reimbursing solution.

Further expectations

WeChat is no longer just a social networking app; it is an entire ecosystem, a robust and interwoven new world for Internet users. WeChat incorporates e-commerce, enterprise services, entertainment, and so on. The platform is also a combination that empowers its partners with technical and traffic support, accelerating business and facilitating meaningful service expansions. However, WeChat still faces numerous challenges, such as how to balance competing demands between enterprises and individual users.

Whatever the case, we can certainly expect more leaps and bounds from the tech titan Tencent. Good luck to the WeChat-based new world.

(Top photo from 699pic.com)

Kaikai Shi

Kaikai Shi writes for us. He holds a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology at Zhejiang University. His interests are in new technology and reading. Kai believes that new technology will change the world we live in, and is trying to engage himself in this process.

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