Swiss Exporters: How to use WeChat for Business in China

WeChat: All-in-One Business tool and a Super Swiss Army Knife Online Platform

It is hard to imagine life in China without WeChat. It is hard to imagine business in China without WeChat. What is WeChat? Developed by Tencent in 2011 and with over 700 million users worldwide, WeChat is now the most important social network platform in China. It is much more than simply WhatsApp plus PayPal! WeChat is actually rather a portal, a platform, and it has turned into a Swiss army knife super app in the space of five years.

Several hands holding smartphones.

Data shows the impressive market penetration WeChat has achieved in China

  • 768 million daily active users (Tencent Life Report Dec 2016)
  • 50% of WeChat users spend 90mins per day in WeChat
  • 31% of WeChat users make e-commerce purchases through WeChat
  • 36% of users open WeChat for more than 30 times per day

What users are doing with WeChat: a complete digital eco-system

Check moments, chat with friends, shop online, pay for goods at physical stores, settle utility bills and split dinner tabs with friends, book and pay for taxis, order food delivery, buy movie tickets, play casual games, check in for a flight, send money to friends, access fitness tracker data, book a doctor appointment, get banking statements, find geo-targeted coupons, recognize music, search for a book at the local library, meet strangers around you, follow celebrity news, read magazine articles, donate to charity…

WeChat is increasingly used by companies and has already become an essential way for Swiss small and medium sized businesses to interact with their customer base in China.

How can businesses reach Chinese consumers through WeChat?

WeChat has three major functions for companies:


  • Brand communication: As a first step, businesses can set up a WeChat official enterprise account (service account or subscription account) offering a basic way to communicate directly with their followers and share promotional branded content. WeChat also provides an open platform for businesses to build their own apps on top of WeChat, basically an ‘apps within an app’ model, which is much cheaper and easier than native app development. And more importantly, this allows businesses to access and interact more easily with WeChat’s massive user base.
    It is fair to say that in China most companies, and especially SMEs, will pay more attention to their WeChat official accounts than to their own websites. Many small businesses may not even bother with a formal website as a large number of Chinese users have skipped the desktop PC era and are more comfortable and familiar with using mobile platforms, in particular WeChat.
  • E-Commerce: WeChat is a perfect platform to reach Chinese clients and it is a powerful C2C, B2C and cross-border e-commerce tool. Businesses can easily incorporate their WeChat stores within their official accounts as well as in their promotional contents, while the WeChat payment system enables easy transactions for both online and brick and mortar vendors. Store locator and WeChat QR codes also provide a convenient gateway between the online and offline world.
  • Customer service: For a WeChat user, adding an official account works the same way as adding a friend, and sending messages to official accounts doesn’t feel different from chatting with personal contacts. This creates interesting opportunities to use WeChat as a customer service platform. As a business, you can talk to your customer directly, geo-target your potential clients, customize your products, contextualize your sales, increase engagement from followers, organize social campaigns and personalize your clients’ shopping journey.


Practical advice

Social commerce is still commerce but the rules are a bit different. Be creative! Here are a few practical advices:

  • Content is king! Remember WeChat is a socially driven commerce platform, provide contents that make people want to share them with their friends.
  • KOL engagement. One of the greatest driving factors in Chinese product sales is what’s known as KOLs, or Key Opinion Leaders. These can include celebrities, industry leaders, or just normal people with an immense amount of followers on WeChat, known as a wang hong. Chinese consumers on the whole tend to be more influenced by their peers than the average Western market.
  • Be smart and creative when selecting products for market campaigns. Offer special products that people won’t find on other sales channels, e.g. personalized products or limited edition products.

To sum up, WeChat is the new way to connect, engage and sell in China!

If you would like to further understand and evaluate the Chinese social commerce market, we suggest you get in touch with Daniel Bont, our SG-E consultant responsible for China. We would be pleased to discuss with you on how to approach Chinese customers through social media.


Source: 2016 WeChat Data Report



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