WeChat: China's Version of Facebook – Only Better!

Foto: Frau blickt auf ihr Handy; copyright: panthermedia.net/imptmphoto

"Forget tiny little Black Friday. Single's Day, the world's biggest online shopping day of the year, has just finished with Chinese shoppers spending 17.8 billion USdollar (14.2 billion pound) in 24 hours," writes The Telegraph in November. Meanwhile, a customer survey conducted by the EHI discovered that nearly half of all customers in Germany are actually not familiar with Black Friday. Black Friday is not a concept that either brick-and-mortar or online retail are familiar with, not to mention Single's Day. Germans are hopelessly lagging behind China’s digital love affair with consumption.

Online shopping booms in China, and mobile shopping, in particular, is growing in popularity. Today, two-thirds of Chinese consumers already shop with their mobile phones at least once a month. That’s two-thirds of China’s approximately 1.4 billion total population. Nowhere else is mobile shopping as convenient for customers as it is in China. WeChat has done a spectacular job of making this possible. Launched as a chat platform, it has now turned into a mobile browser for many Chinese people. Not only are they able to chat and like things on China’s equivalent of Facebook, people can also just as easily browse the digital retail store windows, order products and pay with a few clicks. Anywhere, at any time and very conveniently. And because it is so easy, many are doing it.

Image: Logo of WeChat; Copyright: WeChat

The chat platform WeChat is the chinese counterpart to Facebook und provides its users many possibilities - also in the secotr of e-commerce; © WeChat

In a Handelsblatt article, Hong Kong-based consulting firm Azoya explains that WeChat is a huge part of everyday Chinese life because the app makes many daily routines easier. That's why many retailers from all kinds of different industry sectors, ranging from banks to fashion brands all the way to pharmacies, have made this app the home of their official online stores. As the first luxury brand, Dior recently opened an account to sell handbags on WeChat.

Okay, admittedly mobile commerce has also made its mark in Germany. Germans also zero in on their smartphones as a shopping helper, especially during Christmas time, known to be the peak selling season for retailers. Zalando actually indicates that two-thirds of its online customers visit its store using a smartphone or tablet computer during the pre-Christmas season. Having said that, not all of these customers truly purchase items but at least half of them pick shoes, coats or skirts with their mobile devices. However, the company doesn't say how often products were bought via cell phone. Esprit is another company that reports a higher than average mobile traffic growth of more than 60 percent, indicates the Handelsblatt. Whether these are mobile purchases is also not mentioned in this case.

Chinese people are simply several years ahead when it comes to mobile shopping compared to Germans. That’s why German luxury brands are considering setting up payment options in their brick-and-mortar stores in Germany's major metropolitan areas for their Chinese customers via providers like WeChat.

WeChat managed to combine many functions on one platform to where several other functions have become redundant. It is home to the communication streams between customers and companies – and that is just the formula for success behind the Mega Shopping Days!

Author: Ute Holtmann, January 2017