WeChat: Born to be R$CH

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Are you thinking of doing business in China? You made some new Chinese friends? You want to know a little bit more about the rising country? Well, you need WeChat. Since its first release in Jan 2011, WeChat has taking over China and aiming at the world. In contrast to Whatsapp, an instant messaging App whose main revenue source is an annual subscription fee of $1 after a free year of use, WeChat with free subscription has made $1.1billionn in 2014 with an estimated growth of 40% this year. If you ask me why, I’d tell you WeChat is born to be rich.

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Born as a giant baby

Newest data from Statista showed that WeChat currently has 650 million active monthly users among its 1.1 billion registered users worldwide. Born in a country that has the largest population and booming economy in the world, a country that most Western social media is blocked, WeChat had the perfect opportunity and distinct advantage to launch and expand. With its recent $200 million advertising campaign expanding into the US, Europe and Africa spanning Italy, India, South Africa, WeChat is getting out of it comfort zone and encroach the territory of Whatsapp. The world’s most popular messaging Apps are more or less mirror images of each other. Whether WeChat can stand out in the competition is depending on its products and services. What’s more, it has named its own competitors more than just instant messaging Apps.

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Grow up unlike a copycat

Firstly, I’d like to clarify that WeChat is nothing like Whatsapp’s Chinese version, and comparing to Skype, and Facebook Messenger, WeChat’s strategy is particularly mobile-first, app-within-an app model. Besides regular functions like sending messages in text and in audio, it can automatically translate textual conservation between English and Chinese. It allows the user to make free voice and video call without Wi-Fi, which makes Skype look rather primitive and costly. Besides the voice messaging function that Whatsapp also have, WeChat has its unique “live chat” Walkie Talkie functionality.

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WeChat’s GPS location service is the most advanced among all. It allows user to send location and also share the real-time location, which saves a lot of messing around with directions. Its GPS location has provided it with a “People Nearby” feature, which can be used like Tinder to meet random people nearby. And if you’d like to meet some new friends but not locally, there is a “Shake” function that allows you simply shake your phone and see who are also shaking at the same moment worldwide. Of course, the location service can be used during a group meeting or party that you open Friend Radar and people that you just had a first chat will show up on your personal radar display for you to add.
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If you think that WeChat is just an advanced messaging App, then you are wrong. it’s an App that more than chitchat. Its Moments feature has made it a social media where you can post updates via text, photos and videos like Facebook. The Moments allow you to like, comment and share but with its unique characteristic. C has to be WeChat friends with both A and B to be able to see what B had commented on A’s moments.

 

How can WeChat be richer?

When you look back in 2011 that WeChat was simply perceived as a messaging App, but now it has become a powerful device for brands in China to reach awareness and engagement. With Official accounts and app-within-app, you can hail cab, pay your bills or order a delivery. By allowing other corporate accounts to make online transactions with their customers, WeChat will charge a fee over the total amount.

With more official accounts joining, a habit of shopping on WeChat is generating. Today you can build a well-designed WeChat store within 5 mins using 3rd party ecommerce platforms. At this moment, most of the profit for WeChat is from its games, official account advertisement and transaction fees, but in the near future, it might change the policy and aim at the WeChat Stores.

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After WeChat launching it WeChat Wallet in 2014 Chinese New year, users are able to connect their bank account to conduct payments, top up phones and send red envelopes. During Chinese New year 2015, there were more than $160 million sent to friends through WeChat, and those balance left in customers’ wallet might bring WeChat opportunities to do investment and loans in the future.

As a newborn baby, WeChat grows up following the demand of consumers. Although without a fix model of its product and specific market niche can be both its strength and weakness. But at least in Q1 2015, WeChat is already estimated to be worth $100 billion and its developer Tencent had its revenue grew by 24% at the same time. Do-it all super platform might break its own curse.

By  Jialu Zhang