How to sell to China via WeChat

How to sell to China via WeChat

WeChat (in Chinese “Weixin” standing for micro-message), originally a messaging app similar to WhatsApp. However, WeChat has been developed way beyond chatting and becomes a super app. It has most of the amazing features of different western apps (Facebook, WhatsApp, Youtube, Uber, Tinder, Amazon…) combined. WeChat is a platform which enables you to do almost anything and everything in China, e.g. chat with friends, share on your timeline, call a cab, order food, book tickets, pay and invest money and of course shopping products…

Almost every Chinese uses WeChat.

1. Key Facts about WeChat

According to 2019 financial report of Tencent, monthly active users on WeChat have exceeded 1.2 billion. The total transaction volume of Mini-Programs reached 800 billion RMB, and the average daily transaction volume in the Q4 2019 was more than 1 billion。

On average, each WeChat user opens the software 10.6 times a day, and 34% of users use it for more than 4 hours a day. More and more brands use WeChat as an essential sales and communication channel in China.

wechat ecology assive user base and potential data

2. WeChat Official Account

2.1 What is a WeChat Official Account?

WeChat Official Account is the WeChat equivalent of a Facebook page, they are an interface which a brand can use to:

  • Gather followers
  • Communicate content to the followers
  • Send them push notifications
  • Redirect them to a website or an e-commerce shop

2.2 What are the different types of WeChat Official Accounts?

There are several types of WeChat Official Accounts:

WeChat Service Accounts (服务号):

appears as friends in the “chat” section of WeChat. They are extremely visible and have additional features compared to subscription account (in particular WeChat login, WeChat payment and geo-localization). However, they can only post 4 messages per month. When sending a message to users, the user will receive an instant message reminder.

WeChat Subscription Accounts (订阅号):

can send up to 1 push message per day to their followers and are grouped together in a dedicated folder appearing alongside your friends in the “chat” section of WeChat. When sending a message to users, the user will not receive an instant message reminder.

differences between account types

Corporate Accounts(企业号):

While subscription accounts and service accounts target external followers, WeChat corporate accounts are specialized for internal communication and management. They’re not open to the public. Users must be verified internal staff to follow a corporate account.

2.3 How to Create a WeChat Official Account for your Brand?

The process of creating an Official Account is not very complicated:

  1. Visit Wechat official accounts platform https://mp.weixin.qq.com
  2. Click “Register now” to register your initial account
  3. Choose the account type
  4. Fill in the application form and wait for Wechat validation
  5. When the validation is approved by WeChat, you can log in to the admin homepage and operate your official account
how to create wechat official accounts

The sign-up fee is free when creating WeChat Official Account, usually takes you 1-2 weeks for application procedure. And if you want to have verify your Official Account, the verification fee is 300RMB per year. The verification needs 1-3 business days.

If your WeChat Official Account needs to serve Chinese consumers, the content must be displayed in Chinese. If your team does not have a proficient Chinese colleague, it is recommended to leave it to a professional service provider to do this.

3. Sell to China via WeChat Store

3.1 What is the difference between a WeChat shop and a WeChat Mini-program?

A WeChat Mini-Program is an “App within the App”. It is an App built in a specific language to be accessible easily via WeChat. It can provide e-commerce services or other kind of functionalities.

A WeChat Shop refers to any e-commerce experience optimized for WeChat. It could be a simple website (HTML5) optimized for WeChat via proper WeChat UX, WeChat Login and WeChat Payment, or it could be a WeChat Mini-program.

We recommend our clients to have both a WeChat Mini-program (for optimal user experience website) and a web-based WeChat Store (which will also work in other platforms such as Weibo).

3.2 How to open a WeChat Shop?

WeChat has launched a new platform called WeChat Mini Shop in July 2020.

It’s a free shop-building tool that allows merchants to instantly create their own WeChat Mini Shop, which also comes with marketing functions including built-in live streaming as well as logistics and inventory management support.

This product is a WeChat native store builder system. Merchants can set up their online shop without any development restriction.

However, the features and functions of the WeChat Mini Shop are rather limited.

Advanced features such as group buy, CRM, API support, and integration with other platforms are not provided. And for international merchants, the Mini Shop cannot fulfill the cross-border e-commerce process.

If you are a merchant and the following features are important to you:

  1. Advanced CRM system, e.g. allows you to tag your target audiences and more precisely target them with different contents or incentive programs
  2. Advanced marketing automation functions, such as group buy, flash sale, affiliate marketing
  3. Advanced data analytics about transactions, products and customers

Or you are an international merchant and want to sell your products to China via WeChat based on Cross Border E-Commerce Model:

  1. Your shop shall be connected with China customs with automatic fast lane customs clearance process
  2. You want to receive payment in local currency directly to your home bank account
  3. You want to ship your products directly from your home country warehouse or use bonded warehouse in China
  4. You want to connect your WeChat with your western e-commerce shop system (e.g. shopify, magento…), so that Order Management and Inventory Management can be shared.

Then the native WeChat Mini Shop provided by WeChat cannot fulfill your needs.
You will have two options in order to create a WeChat mini-program store with the above-mentioned functionalities:

First Option: Customized Mini-Program Store:

In order to do so, you will need a dedicated, Chinese-speaking, development team in house or you can request eTOC to develop a customized mini program shop for your brand. This is the path chosen by mostly larger brands who want to have complete control over and very specific requirements for their mini-program shop.

Second Option: Use a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) WeChat store provider

Many brands will choose a SaaS provider which will enable them to launch a WeChat store faster and at a lower cost. It´s similar as western brands would not develop an e-commerce store from scratch, but would rely on solutions such as Shopify or Magento.

eTOC is also a SaaS WeChat store provider with a store solution focused on international brands who want to sell to China via cross border e-commerce:

  • Our backend operating system is both in Chinese and English language.
  • It integrates natively with western e-commerce shop system such as Shopify and Magento.
  • It is connected to China customs with a fast lane custom clearance process.
  • It is also connected with an international payment system which helps you to receive cross-border payments directly from Chinese customers and in your local currency.
  • It included all the advanced features and functions such as the above-mentioned CRM, Marketing Automation, Data Analytics functions.

 

4. How to generate traffic to your WeChat store and drive sales?

Unlike Tmall, WeChat is not a searched-based ecosystem. As such, you need to help your customers find your shop.

wechat mini-program ecommerce promotion model

Here are a few of the main options to drive traffic to your WeChat store.

4.1 Engage with and target your followers via your WeChat Official Account

In addition to attracting followers, the WeChat Official Account also has powerful CRM functions that can help brands better manage consumers and convert loyal consumers in China. Brands can continuously influence consumers through various forms of marketing activities on their Official Accounts.

wechat official accounts CRM system

You can practice different marketing needs in the official account:

  • Broadcast Messaging: send group messages, so that all fans will receive notifications of your activities. The service account can send four messages every month, and the subscription account can send one message every day.
  • Auto Reply: setting keywords by yourself, and automatically responding to customers’ questions in the first time.
  • Direct Messaging: directly talk to single follower in the background of the Official Account, send text, picture, voice and other messages.
  • Follower Management: view and collect the WeChat ID of fans, each WeChat ID is a multi-platform authentication method; other information such as gender, city, age, etc. can also be obtained in the background of the Official Account.
  • Content Management: support the editing/combination of text, audio, pictures and videos in various forms of marketing content to create a comprehensive image for product promotion.
  • Analytics: make a comprehensive judgment and analysis on the growth of public account fans, article reading data, etc. Track the performance of your WeChat advertisings.
wechat official accounts

4.2 Cooperate with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders)

Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) or influencers are not only representatives of Chinese consumers, but also a bridge for the brand to communicate with the majority of consumers. KOLs are very good at communicating the right brand message, promoting the product to their target audience and leading to effective sales conversions. Influencer or KOL campaigns can be incredibly efficient.
Among people who purchase a product following a KOL campaign, 48% of them buy directly from the links provided by the KOL. The other half will head to e-commerce platforms to benchmark prices before buying. That’s why KOL marketing is maybe the most effective way to promote a new brand.

WeChat mini-programs can be integrated natively within the KOL articles in WeChat, which enables the consumers to go from content to purchase in just 1 click. This smooth integration yields very high conversion rates.

4.3 WeChat Paid Advertising

WeChat offers 3 major paid advertising measures to drive traffic to your WeChat store or WeChat Official Account.

First: WeChat Moments Advertising

Moments (similar to Facebook Feeds) is a very frequently used WeChat function. Users can post and share texts, pictures and videos on their moments. Their friends can engage with the posts via “comment” and “like”. Social acquaintances are the significant difference between WeChat, Facebook and Twitter. The posts on the moment are only shown to their connected friends and the engagements between 2 friends are only visible to their shared friends.

wechat moments advertising sample

WeChat Moment Ads are very visible since it will directly appear on WeChat Moments of target audiences. They are very similar to Facebook mobile timeline ads. These ads open a landing page which can then lead to either a website, a Mini-Program, or a download page on App stores.

wechat moments advertising sample

Second: WeChat Banner ads

WeChat Banner ads are banners displayed inside of the WeChat Official Accounts articles (like a banner on a website).

Based on the WeChat public platform, WeChat can provide brands with various advertising forms and use professional data processing algorithms to achieve a cost-controllable, useful and accurate advertising system.

Below is a good example of boosting traffic by Official Accounts Ads:

The Ad from Nicomama used the Card Ad with picture (OA logo + OA name + link), displayed the ad in the middle of targeting articles’ page. When clicking on this card ad, customers will land to its WeChat Mini-program Store and gain different coupons for further purchasing.

wechat official accounts advertising sample

Third: WeChat Mini-program ads

A last option is WeChat Mini-program ads which are displayed within a Mini-program or a mini game.

Mini Program banner version Ads can be placed:

    • at the bottom of a Mini Program page
    • as a pop-up within the mini-program
    • Incentive ads covering the entire screen and are shown to users during transitions within the Mini Program (for example when opening it, or after losing or completing a level in a mini-game)

For example, below is an Incentive Ad within a Mini Game. If the player wants to revive from this game or get bonus points, he/she needs to watch a 15s ad of your brand and land to the historical page of your WeChat Official Account. So that your targeting potential customers can approach your activities in their leisure time.

4.4 Cross-promotion with other WeChat Official Accounts

In addition to building their own Official Accounts, brands can also cooperate with other popular Official Accounts, insert advertisements in other articles, or directly ask for publishing brand promotion articles on their official accounts.

Cross-promotion between official accounts is a powerful way to drive traffic and acquire followers.

4.5 Social sharing

WeChat is of course a social network, and generating incentives to share are an essential element of WeChat marketing.

You can provide your WeChat customers with discounted price if they manage to convince friends to join deals.

4.6 Driving traffic from other platform and social networks

Furthermore, you can leverage your existing brand assets in order to drive traffic to your WeChat Account.

These can include ensuring that your WeChat QR code is included on your website home page, or running an outbound email campaign to your existing users/customers asking them to follow your WeChat Account.

4.7 Other Traffic Channels

Videos

WeChat video account is a new content recording and creation platform, and a window to understanding the world. In the era of the crazy growth of short videos, WeChat did not fall behind, providing a channel for brands and individuals to output video content. The video account location is placed on the discovery page of WeChat, just below the entrance of Moments.

Shake

Shake Peripheral (Shake for short) is an O2O entry-level application of WeChat based on Bluetooth low energy technology. As a new offline feature of WeChat, it provides offline merchants with the ability to connect users in close distance and supports offline merchants to push personalized marketing, interaction and information recommendation to the nearby leads.

When the mobile phone bluetooth is turned on, the user opens and shakes in WeChat if the signal is within the iBeacon device’s range, the “peripheral” page card will appear automatically, and the user will get peripheral discounts and services with a shake.

This method can be very useful in industry trade show, where companies can easily push the relevant information or a landing page to their stand visitors directly through WeChat.

5. Sell to China via WeChat

To sum up, in order to sell to China via WeChat, you need to open an Official WeChat Account for your brand, create a WeChat Shop to list your products and of course do marketing to attract traffic to your WeChat shop.

In case you have any questions or need our professional support, please feel free to fill out the contact form. We will get back to you very soon!

Want to have a first free consultation session about selling to China via WeChat? Contact us.