How WeChat became the app that China can’t live without

WeChat logo

When even our very own Asia Director, Zihan Liu comments “We can’t live without it, everything is done through WeChat!", we examine, how, as the number of global active users moves closer to one billion, this social media platform grew so quickly.

Owned by Chinese company Tencent, WeChat’s simple life began as just an instant messaging (IM) app in 2011. Then came voice calling and video calling, shortly followed by gaming, geolocation searching ‘shake’, blog posts ‘moments’, QR coding and mobile payments. Suddenly it is a ‘one-stop shop'; where you can easily order food, buy cinema tickets, call a cab, shop online, send money to others, and even book a doctor’s appointment.

All of this can be achieved without even leaving WeChat. External sites are opened within the WeChat browser, and their full-blown mobile commerce platform built inside, Tenpay, allows users to carry out transactions with the app. For now, most western social media platforms do not facilitate financial transactions for goods directly, which puts WeChat ahead with its technology and as a dominant player in Chinese commerce. 

International expansion is on the cards again, with Tencent taking a new approach. Instead of trying to replicate its Chinese business, it is striking up new partnerships to integrate both international and local brands on the platform. WeChat is developing its payment service in the US and Europe, and encouraging international brands to sell on its platform in order to target Chinese tourists or expats in these markets. They have opened up its service to U.S. advertisers and very recently Tencent announced a new advertising platform to attract western brands. In Europe, WeChat already has an office in Milan, with operations in UK, Germany and France in their sights.

For the western brands, the potential to avoid some of the bureaucracy of setting up their own retail operations in China and with transactions at the centre of the platform, WeChat is a very attractive outlet with huge potential for them to tap into this vast and highly engaged audience. 

However, with opportunity comes potential risks, and whether a brand does or doesn’t want to take advantage of this platform, Rights Holders need to acknowledge that criminals do. If a company isn’t already monitoring WeChat, they should certainly explore whether they have already fallen victim to IP abuse, and secure a brand protection procedure in place to handle these and future infringements before it is too late.

Read our next blog about WeChat and counterfeit threats on the platform: Don’t assume your brand isn’t at risk on WeChat.

We'd love to hear from you if you have any questions about your brand on WeChat, or please request a FREE WeChat Brand Protection Status Report.