Blog

Quick Guide: WeChat, E-commerce and Magento

What is WeChat

and why should I be using it?

W

eChat is a messaging and social media app developed by Tencent, released in 2011. It is by far China’s most popular social platform with 963 million monthly active users in 2017. To put it in simple terms, you should be using WeChat because that’s where your Chinese customers are.

There’s a lot more to the app than just social media. In a nation where mobile commerce is booming, WeChat has developed into a kind of an all-purpose app that enables users to do almost anything and everything. You can book a taxi, order food, transfer money, buy movie tickets, pay bills, book flights and much more. The average user spends nearly two hours on the platform every day.

What is

an official WeChat account?

A

lmost 90% of active WeChat users follow official accounts. These provide a way for brands to communicate with users, gain new followers and promote their products and services. An official account can send a user to the brand’s website or an online store.

Official accounts offer a fully customisable interface. You can recreate the look and feel of your brand and present it to Chinese customers on a platform that they’re already familiar with.

Official WeChat account of the Finnish retailer Kesko, featuring its Pirkka brand.

Do you have to be in China

to have an official account?

I

n order to abide by local regulations regarding content that can be published on the platform, WeChat has restricted access to official accounts for foreign companies.

If your company is based outside China, there are two ways to create an official account:

  1. You can use your overseas business licence to apply for an official service account (There are two types of official accounts; subscription account is the other one). There appears to be no official eligibility criteria and applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. You have to register through a qualified agency and it’s a slightly costly and lengthy process (the first year registration fee is over 1,000 USD and the process can take up to 6 months). The benefit of doing it this way is that you will have full legal ownership of the account without having to rely on a third party. These accounts are also eligible for WeChat advertising.
  2. Alternatively, you can use a third-party Chinese licence to create the account. The process is a lot faster and cheaper (it takes about 2 weeks to set up and costs around $50), and you will be able to use your own name and branding. The main drawback is that legally the account is still owned by the third-party Chinese company and their name will appear on the account.

How do you sell

on WeChat?

W

eChat is widely considered to be the best way to enter the Chinese e-commerce market. WeChat stores have been available for a few years now, allowing anyone to set up a store within the app and process payments using WeChat Pay, Tencent’s popular mobile payment wallet.

Fierce competition has also driven retailers to experiment with the platform’s features and inventing new approaches to e-commerce. A relatively new feature called mini programs (“apps within an app”), was launched last year, providing brands with new opportunities to sell their products.

Mini programs come with more advanced e-commerce features, such as discount coupons, price comparison, geolocation, video and even live streaming. So far approximately 600,000 mini programs have been created on the platform. Even Google recently launched its own mini program in an apparent bid to explore new strategies for the Chinese market.

Burberry’s WeChat store is also available in English.

Fashion retailer Mushroom Street’s mini program combines live streaming and selling.

Can I link WeChat

with my existing online store?

F

or many retailers, WeChat stores are the perfect solution for boosting their online sales. They’re quick and easy, plug-and play solutions that anyone can manage and use. However, for more advanced functionality, brands might look to integrate their WeChat store to their existing online store via WeChat API. The nice thing about the integrated stores is that even when the user clicks through, it still feels like the same familiar WeChat experience to them. WeChat integration also means access to WeChat Pay, allowing you to process payments with ease using a system that is already popular with Chinese shoppers.

Mini programs come with more advanced e-commerce features, such as discount coupons, price comparison, geolocation, video and even live streaming. So far approximately 600,000 mini programs have been created on the platform. Even Google recently launched its own mini program in an apparent bid to explore new strategies for the Chinese market.

Magento

and WeChat integration

T

he good news for retailers running Magento-powered stores is that WeChat stores can be directly integrated with your Magento e-commerce platform, providing a seamless multi-channel environment to grow your business in China. Of course, integration is possible with other e-commerce platforms as well, but Magento provides a few distinct advantages over competition.

Building a WeChat store with Magento offers a number of benefits:

  • Flexibility. Magento is a cloud e-commerce platform with an open source ecosystem, offering advanced e-commerce functionality. It is powerful, fast, fully customisable and suitable for any type of business.
  • Easy to manage and maintain. With Magento’s intuitive admin panel you can manage multiple stores from a single interface. Multiple stores can all share the same codebase and backend, which significantly expands the possibilities of scaling your business.
  • Third-party modules. These are available from the Magento marketplace and allow access to even more advanced WeChat functionality such as payment gateways and social logins.

Accolade specialises in developing Magento powered online stores and providing digital marketing solutions for European brands in China. Get in touch if you’re looking for a professional partner for your Chinese marketing strategy.

© 2017 Accolade Ltd. All Rights Reserved.