The social messaging app WeChat has been slowly but surely expanding its reach beyond east Asia over the past couple of years, but considering that only a small fraction of its features are available to users outside its home country of China, most Westerners really haven’t grasped exactly how crucial it is to download WeChat if you will be traveling to China. One tech company specializing in making WeChat work for non-China based businesses insists that you need to have WeChat, even if you will only be in China for a week – and that goes for tourists as well as business owners.
How startups are finding success on WeChat
One of the biggest hurdles startup businesses have to overcome is engagement with potential users/customers. Lately, forward-thinking entrepreneurs have been trying to attract a mobile-obsessed consumer base by paying thousands of dollars to develop their own apps for Android, iOS and other major operating systems. What they have found, however, is there is a lot of “friction” that keeps a new potential customer from downloading that app in the first place.
This is where WeChat comes in.
Startups who have opted to file for Official Account status on WeChat instead of creating their own app have found that they are able to reach exponentially more users, with less of that “friction” and a lot less upfront costs. This is especially true for companies who are able to get a Chinese WeChat Official Account to appeal to that country’s consumer base – take the following statistics, for example:
There are approximately 1 billion registered WeChat accounts in China, with around 700 million active monthly users. 55% of them check WeChat at least 10 times each day, 200 million of them have their credit cards linked to their accounts, and 83% use it to buy products and services online.
Those are numbers that any business would be wise to take advantage of.
WeChat downloads for visitors and ex-pats in China
Anyone traveling to China for business or pleasure will see firsthand how ingrained this multi-functional app has become in the daily life of the average urban Chinese person. WeChat has expanded to accommodate its users’ daily and even hourly needs, with millions of businesses offering app-like experiences within WeChat to do anything from hailing a cab or ordering food to making a doctor’s appointment and paying your water bill. It’s no doubt the best way to stay connected to the new people you meet in China, especially business contacts.
The obstacle that many visitors and ex-pats run into, however, is that most of these services are only available in Chinese, which is of course an extremely difficult language to learn how to read as an adult. Luckily, there are a few new applications designed to work WeChat for English-speaking users so that they can get some of the same services enjoyed by Chinese users in China: these include the app “NiHao” (Mandarin for “Hello”), as well as ExpatsExpress. These apps can help English speakers in China use WeChat’s mobile payment service, book many types of services and buy products in this mobile environment.