WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app ( more than one billion active monthly users), is also home to a vibrant and growing e-commerce sector and has become a must-have app for most brands doing business in China. In this blog post, we explore how brands and marketers can open a Wechat store and start selling products and services on the platform. We also provide tips for optimizing your Wechat store for success and promoting it. Read on to learn more!
Ways to Sell on WeChat
There are two ways of opening a store on WeChat, and it will be up to you to choose which one suits your goals the best.
WeChat (H5) Store:
Stores on WeChat are e-commerce experiences embedded in the app. Brands can sell their products through WeChat by opening a WeChat store. These types of stores are linked to your WeChat official account (see below for more information on this)
The following are some of the unique features of WeChat stores:
- Within WeChat, you can search WeChat stores
- WeChat payments are available for customers
- WeChat’s one-click login allows customers to authenticate themselves
- WeChat users’ shipping addresses can be prefilled by your store
- Integrating influencer campaigns with WeChat
- A WeChat article can be linked directly to a WeChat store by influencers
- Customers can shop natively in your app
WeChat is a great choice if you want to integrate influencer campaigns with your store when compared to traditional websites because of its integration with influencers.
Every step of the user journey is optimized for WeChat, so conversion rates are also much higher.
WeChat Mini Program
There are various mini-programs within the WeChat ecosystem which are called “sub-applications.” The application provides services such as e-commerce, virtual store tours, task management, coupons, and many other features to WeChat users. (For instance, a series of mini-programs have been used by local governments during Covid-19 to control the spread of the pandemic, including the use of QR codes, tracking of PCR test results, registering vaccination, etc.)
They are an essential part of the WeChat experience for many people. It’s not uncommon to use them several times per day, (72% of users of WeChat use them). WeChat mini-programs offer more options than regular H5 stores along with marketing features like group buying or live streams that can be shared with friends in real-time (including KOLs – key influencers)
WeChat Mini can be accessed in many ways. Swipe down on WeChat to access a list of previously saved or recently used Mini programs. The swipe down the interface is responsible for 27 percent of the traffic to WeChat’s Mini Program, according to Youzan, a shop platform on WeChat.
By positioning itself as an operating system, WeChat has made a major step forward. WeChat Mini Programs will do the work for most businesses instead of launching a separate App on a Chinese app store.
Get Your Brand Set Up to Sell on WeChat
In order to sell on the WeChat brand will have to apply for a WeChat service account. This type of account is what we call a business account and it is the most basic requirement when trying to sell on WeChat. Even if you were not planning to open a store on Wechat, an official account would be key for your brand credibility in China. A WeChat official account will give you access to many tools interesting for branding.
To use WeChat as a marketing tool, there are two types of official accounts:
- WeChat service accounts. WeChat users can add these accounts to their friend list. Users can receive four push notifications per month from these accounts. Account owners access WeChat pay and geo-localization among others. Most importantly, you can create many programs and a WeChat store.
- WeChat subscription accounts. Articles can be posted daily (one push notification per day), but their visibility is not as high as services. Subscribers are notified by email when new articles are published in a “subscription” folder that they must open. Best for brands whose core business is content (such as a newspaper)
Create a WeChat Official Account
Although registering an official account is not the most complicated process it comes with its own sets of challenges. For one, if your company is not registered in China, you’ll have to 1/ register your brand in China. 2/ find a local partner to register an account for you, this partner will be the legal owner.
Here is the list of documents you should provide to register a WeChat official account:
- A Chinese ID (身份证 or shēnfèn zhèng)
- A Chinese phone number
- A Chinese business license if you have one (营业执照 or yíngyè zhízhào)
- Chinese organization code (组织机构代码证 or zǔzhī jīgòu dàimǎzhèng)
What are the different options to open a WeChat store
There is no direct connection between WeChat and its stores. This is an important distinction between them and Facebook Shops or Google Listings. A special programming language is used to create WeChat stores using the toolkit (SDK and API) provided by WeChat.
If you are a merchant, there are two options for creating a WeChat mini-program store:
- Develop a store in-house. Your software development team will need to be Chinese-speaking to meet the deadline. Big brands or influencers choose this path if they want to be in total control of their mini-program experience.
- Use a Software-as-a-Service WeChat store provider. The use of a SaaS provider will enable many brands to launch a WeChat store more quickly and inexpensively. You have 3 mains option: Youdian, youzan and weidian. They all come with their pros and con. Learn more about it here.
Promoting Your Store on WeChat
You can become visible on WeChat once your store has been set up. You won’t make any sales from your WeChat Store unless you promote it, just like with a website. Now let’s take a look at some methods for getting consumers to visit your WeChat store.
1. Promotional Posts
Publish articles or short messages, including product information, reviews, and promotional campaigns, on your official account to promote your WeChat business. This is the easiest and most common way to sell on WeChat. A common and effective method of increasing subscribers is by launching promotional campaigns.
2. WeChat advertising
- Moments ads
The Moments feature on WeChat is a popular way for users to share photos, short videos, and articles with their friends and relatives. Additionally, users can like and comment on each other’s posts. Moments ads appear on the Facebook pages of targeted users and can be purchased by brands. It is essentially a user’s feed.
A few years back, Wechat added the option for brands to advertise their products/services on Wechat moment. The ad formats are varied as you can post text, images, video, interactive content, and so on. Most companies doing paid advertising on WeChat Moments chose to send visitors to a landing page specifically designed for their campaign but you could also use it to send customers right to your store if that is what you want.
- Banner ads
A WeChat article may also contain Account ads as a banner ad. The advertisement will appear when users have read the article on WeChat. Advertisements are also typically seen on WeChat.
3. Link your online store to your WeChat Official Account
Creating an online store where users can view and buy products directly on WeChat is also a popular way to sell on the platform.
Then, brands can use the menu bar in the menu bar to link their online store to their official account or on another platform like Wei-Store. Consumers can access an external online store by clicking the menu bar linked to the online store in the online store. With this solution, customers can complete the entire purchasing process within WeChat, which increases conversion rates.
4. Strategic partnerships
You might already be aware that WeChat Wallet offers brands in the e-commerce, transportation, hospitality, and tourism sectors. Tencent is holding shares in these companies, which is why they all own stock in Tencent. With partnerships like this with WeChat, you can bring in much more traffic as well as streamline payments.
Pros and Cons of Selling on WeChat
Chinese messaging and social networking app Weixin, known as WeChat, launched in 2011. As the app gained popularity, it added multiple functions such as allowing users to pay bills, play games and hail a cab. One of WeChat’s most important transformations in 2014 was the launch of WeChat Pay. As of 2016, WeChat Pay allowed users to pay at stores by scanning QR codes, expanding from peer-to-peer shopping within WeChat to in-app purchases and in-app payments outside of WeChat.
Pros of opening a Wechat store:
- With WeChat, merchants can engage their customers by selling products on the same app they do advertising and communication. Wechat is a social-eCommerce app in that sense. Social eCommerce in China has been growing in popularity quickly and is incredible at increasing conversion rates. In short, you can offer your target audience a full experience.
- The integration of the WeChat store within the app enables brands to more efficiently target their customers. Indeed sellers can collect extensive information on those who frequent their shop or services.
- If you’re a foreign company, WeChat is your best friend. The app handles all of the currency conversion and transfers money across borders.
- Compare to the big Chinese e-commerce app, running a WeChat store is relatively inexpensive.
The challenges of selling on Wechat
WeChat is not designed for eCommerce like Alibaba or JD.com. WeChat users are usually not proactive in their searches for products. WeChat is used for chatting, video conferencing, file transfers, hailing a taxi, paying bills, and occasionally shopping. Developing customers’ shopping behavior on WeChat can lead to them becoming very loyal, but as always, it always begins with passive shopping and must be achieved through an extensive marketing campaign.
WeChat eCommerce: our Conclusion
If you are looking to start selling in China and want to include WeChat as a sales channel, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to do so although you will need an official account. However, it is important to note that WeChat was not initially designed for eCommerce and as such your WeChat store will always be a complement of another bigger online sales channel for your e-commerce strategy in China.
If you need help integrating WeChat eCommerce into your China market entry strategy, our team of experts at GMA would be happy to assist you. Let’s schedule a call to discuss your project. Find out more about our Wechat Services here.