WeChat, China's largest social media platform, has launched a new bid to expand its ecommerce and payment services for brands in Europe, starting in the UK.
WeChat to open up to European brands
Owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd, WeChat is the largest social media platform in China, with over 889 million users. It now looks to open up its ecommerce platform and payment services to European merchants, to sell to Chinese shoppers. International payment services would allow Chinese tourists to pay with WeChat in European stores. The app has become a powerful tool for brands to communicate and engage with shoppers, and now it wants to replicate this with more international brands.
Tencent is looking to open a WeChat office in the UK and another European country, alongside its existing presence in Italy. It is also looking to expand WeChat in the US, by growing its team at the existing office in San Francisco.
Focusing on business-to-business internationally
WeChat is not looking to enter the consumer market in Europe, due to the difficulty of integrating it with already popular rivals, namely WhatsApp. It is focusing on business-to-business instead, by encouraging European brands to sell and advertise products on the WeChat platform. For brands and retailers, this means they can build a direct, more personalised and targeted relationship with Chinese consumers.
Tencent has launched a programme to remove the need of having a Chinese business licence, if brands open up to only WeChat. This will allow smaller European companies to have access to the second largest consumer market in the world, without the usual restrictions.
The only app of its kind
WeChat's strategy is to integrate with its users' life as much as possible. Apart from the standard social media functionalities, WeChat includes advanced functions such as mobile payment, integration with household appliances, gaming, bill payments, ticket purchasing and appointment booking. By integrating many different aspects of life into one app, it removes the barrier of having lots of different apps running at the same time. There is no directly comparable service of size or popularity in markets such as the UK.
A single platform for shoppers
WeChat allows brands and retailers to push digital content and carry out marketing and promotional campaigns, through their official accounts, to which users can subscribe. The ecommerce function allows Chinese shoppers to browse products, communicate with sellers and make payments, as well as share and review products with their social circle, all with the same app. WeChat has changed how Chinese consumers communicate, shop, and interact with brands.
We explore how WeChat is transforming m-commerce in China, and the wider implications for the global retail industry in this insight report.