WeChat: leading mCommerce platform in China

WeChat is the leading mCommerce platform in China. Since its launch at the beginning of 2011, WeChat has been the focus of much attention. The app has grown from a possible WhatsApp copycat to a dominating force in the mCommerce market in China. Combining a whole range of social features with the ability to buy almost anything from within the app, Tencent’s app has experienced rapid growth and seems set to continue to do so.

We take a look at some of the key moments in WeChat’s history that have turned it into a market leader.

Membership Card makes mCommerce platform accessible to small companies

In 2012 WeChat launched its Membership Card, which allowed brands access to a range of CRM features, to help them track and manage mobile commerce and customer data. On the 24th of September 2013 the membership card was updated to version X1, giving commercial users an even greater range of features. The membership card was an important step forward for WeChat, as it allowed smaller businesses without the IT systems or resources in place to be able to manage their customer information via WeChat’s mCommerce platform.

First revenue generated

WeChat first started generating revenue in 2013, when mobile gaming in China started to become very popular, creating in-app purchases for games and stickers. Although this revenue was generated through purchases made within the app, these transactions were still very much limited to the kinds of sales traditionally associated with mobile apps, such as paying for additional content. At this point, WeChat was still not really involved in mCommerce as is known today.

Encouraging users to use mobile payment

WeChat helped to encourage users to pay through the app in mobile by offering a digital version of the traditional Hongbao – a red envelope containing money given at New Year and occasionally weddings. Launched in time for New Year 2014, WeChat’s new feature allowed users to send monetary gifts to one another in a digital red envelope, and could even determine how one sum of money would be distributed between several people. Because users have to link the app to their bank accounts in order to use the service, WeChat were hoping that this would lead to an increase in mCommerce activity.

WeChat payment transforms app into mCommerce platform

On the 5th of March 2014, WeChat launched its WeChat Payment facility – the most important development in transforming the app into a mCommerce platform. Through the new payment system, users could buy all kinds of goods and services (such as coffee), pay for taxi rides, and even buy items to be delivered to their local store or straight to their homes.

Expanding to display ads

Although originally avoiding more traditional display advertising, in July 2014 WeChat gave access to its beta advertising platform to verified accounts with over 100,000 followers. This allows them to include advertisements at the bottom of their news-article style updates. These adverts do not appear in user’s messaging features, only when they click to read a celebrity or brand’s latest updates.

What’s next for WeChat? Check back regularly for news and updates.