What is a WeChat Shop?
WeChat started out as a messaging APP, and quickly extended its functions to include social medias and services. However, the core of WeChat business model is e-commerce: the ability of WeChat to become the electronic wallet of its users.
When users are accessing your website via WeChat, they can use WeChat as a billing system to check-out through a “one-click-payment”: this enables an extremely seamless user-experience and a significant increase in your sales conversion rate.
What are the features of WeChat shops?
WeChat shops come with a large amount of feature which make them stand-out in the Chinese e-commerce landscape. Here are some of them:
- WeChat payments: the ability to pay from within WeChat, with one click
- WeChat log-in: users are automatically logged-in without having to manually enter their email or password
- Automatic phone number collection: access the phone number of the user associated with their WeChat account (requires user approval)
- Automatic address collection: access the list of addresses of the user stored in their WeChat account (requires user approval)
- Integration with influencer accounts: WeChat store enable to easily create a link from an influencer campaign to a product page, enabling extremely high conversion rates
- Social sharing: of course, WeChat stores are easy to share with friends through WeChat. They are therefore the right tool for viral campaigns, group buying and other socially-driven purchasing behaviors.
- Re-targeting: you can re-target users based on their WeChat Store behavior with WeChat ads or WeChat messages from your Official Account
- Offline access: due to the heavy adoption of QR codes in China, WeChat stores can easily be accessed through offline-to-online conversion via QR codes
- Customer service: by having customers buying via your WeChat shop, connected to your WeChat public account, you give them an integrated and intuitive way to speak to your customer service: simply by speaking or writing to the WeChat public account
- Native WeChat coupons: your WeChat shop also enables you to easily send discounts to your customers via a WeChat Official Account. This feature enables you to keep your users updated about the latest promotion and keep them engaged with your brand,
- Easy access from within WeChat: WeChat shops can easily be accessed from within WeChat, via multiple access points
What are the drawbacks of WeChat shops?
Despite being powerful marketing potential, WeChat stores have limitations:
- Lack of organic search traffic: WeChat is not a search engine. Traffic is mostly generated by sharing, influencers or ads.
- WeChat Mini-programs are hard to share outside WeChat: the “Mini-program” version of WeChat stores is hard to share outside of WeChat. However, you can compensate for this by also creating a web version of your WeChat store (or HTML5 version). More on this in the next section.
What is the difference between a WeChat shop and a WeChat Mini-program?
Since WeChat introduced WeChat Mini-programs in early 2017, there have been questions as to what is the difference between a WeChat store and what is a WeChat Mini-program.
A WeChat Mini-program is an “App within the App”. It is an App built in a specific language to be accessible easily via WeChat. It can provide e-commerce services or other kind of functionalities.
A WeChat shop refers to any e-commerce experience optimized for WeChat. It could be a simple website (HTML5) optimized for WeChat via proper WeChat UX, WeChat Login and WeChat Payment, or it could be a WeChat Mini-program.
We recommend our clients to have both a WeChat Mini-program (for optimal user experience website) and a web-based WeChat Store (which will also work in other platforms such as Weibo or Douban)
How to open a WeChat shop?
Find a WeChat store provider
Although nothing keeps you from developing your own WeChat store from scratch, most brands and companies rely on 3rd party WeChat store providers in order to open a WeChat store (just like Western brands would not develop an e-commerce from scratch, but would rely on solutions such as Shopify, Salesforce Commerce or Magento)
Here are a few of the major WeChat store providers you might want to keep in mind:
- Youzan: Youzan is a domestic WeChat store provider with millions of users in China. Pricing ranges from 6,800 RMB (~1,000 USD) to 26,800 RMB (~4,000 USD) per year depending on features, and excluding add-ons. Youzan is perfect for brands with local registration operating a purely Chinese business.
- Weidian: Weidian is a cheaper alternative to Youzan, with less features. It is a good fit for individual re-sellers without a budget to purchase a more fully-fledged e-commerce solutions
- WalktheChat: WalktheChat (that’s us) is an e-commerce solution focused on cross-border brands wanting to sell in China. It integrates natively with Shopify and Magento, and with Alipay and WeChat cross-border payment solutions. It is perfect for brands wanting to sell to China via WeChat through cross-border sales.
How to connect your WeChat Shop with your oversea bank account?
You can connect your corporate bank account with WeChat to receive cross-border payments directly from Chinese customers. Chinese users can pay in RMB, and you’ll be able to collect payments in USD, HKD, AUD or NZD anywhere in the world.
These payments are handled by the WeChat Cross-border Payment solution, and WeChat automatically handles currency conversion and oversea transfer.
How to upload products to your WeChat shop?
WalktheChat WeChat shop solution integrates with popular e-commerce solutions such as Shopify and Magento. Your products, orders and inventory can be automatically uploaded to WeChat, and synchronized in real-time.
If you do not use a popular e-commerce solution with a WalktheChat integration, custom API integration or manual upload are of course possible.
How to design a WeChat shop?
Although each brand has its own approach to WeChat shop design, there are a few rules which apply accross most industries
1. Design with pictures, not text
Chinese characters make it difficult to load many different fonts to fit your design (as a typical font contains thousands of characters and is therefore time consuming to download)
Design on Chinese e-commerce therefore often consists of a lot of pictures put side-by-side.
While Western product pages often only consist of a few pictures in a gallery and a short description, Chinese product descriptions will spread them through the page with an excruciating amount of details.
Below are the screenshots of product pictures for one single product page (for casio watches) on Tmall:
2. Give context about your brand
While Western e-commerce websites tend to be product-focused, Chinese customers tend to be more interested in hearing context about the brand story.
This is especially important for cross-border purchases, where the brand narrative plays an essential role in triggering the purchase
3. Reassure the customer about authenticity
If you are re-selling an existing brand, or if your brand is being sold on gray markets by individual re-sellers (Daigou sales), it is essential to provide users with a proof of authenticity.
This can be done by showing picture of re-seller agreements, or some of the documents involved with custom clearance in order to show that you are importing and selling the product through an official channel.
How to generate traffic to your WeChat shop?
WeChat is not a searched-based ecosystem. As such, you need to help your customers find your shop.
Here are a few of the main options to drive traffic to your WeChat store.
1. WeChat influencers
Most brands (especially brands that are new to China) choose to leverage Chinese bloggers or influencers in order to drive traffic.
There are a few good reasons to use influencers as a primary marketing channel:
- Social proof: in order to launch a new brand in China, the endorsement of influencers is essential in order to gain initial momentum
- Integration with WeChat Mini-programs: there is a deep integration between influencer posts and WeChat mini-programs, which enables to go in 1 click from content to purchase. This integration enables very high conversion rates on influencer campaigns.
- Local market specificities: because of the specificities of the Chinese market, influencers have much more power in China than they do in the West (where Facebook display advertising is more prevalent)
In terms of return on investment, we usually manage to get consistent results between 100% to 800% of the advertising spend (meaning brands which are steadily investing in influencer campaigns will almost always at least get their money back in sales, and sometimes get much higher ROI)
2. WeChat display advertising
WeChat advertising is a powerful (but sometimes expensive way) to drive traffic to your WeChat store or WeChat Official Account.
There are three types of WeChat advertising formats.
WeChat Moment ads are displayed in the users social timeline. They are relatively expensive (often around 100 RMB for 1,000 impressions) but are extremely visible and a powerful branding tool.
WeChat Banner ads are another ad format. They are banners displayed at the bottom of other WeChat Official Accounts articles (like a banner on a website).
They are more affordable than WeChat Moment ads (a follower from WeChat banner ads will typically cost around 13-15 RMB), but don’t carry the same impact in terms of PR and conversion.
A last option is WeChat Mini-program ads which are displayed on 3rd party Mini-programs. They can consist of pop-up ads, banner ads or video that are auto-played (for instance while after a user wins or loses at a WeChat Mini-game)
WeChat Mini-program ads are, as of May 2019, extremely efficient for followers acquisition. They have among the lowest cost-per-follower with around 5 RMB per follower on average (against around 11 RMB per followers for banner ads, and upwards of 35 RMB per follower for Moments ads)
3. Cross-promotion with other WeChat Official Accounts
Cross-promotion between official accounts is a powerful way to drive traffic and acquire followers. It is true both for B2C businesses (by partnering with lifestyle or other influencers) and for B2B businesses (through collaboration with other accounts in your industry or targetting the same B2B customers).
In fact, a poll by QuestMobile in February 2019 showed that recommendation from other accounts was the main way for WeChat users to discover new accounts to follow.
4. Social sharing
WeChat is of course a social network, and generating incentives to share are an essential element of WeChat marketing.
The most common form of social sharing has been popularized by social commerce startup Pinduoduo: group buying. You can provide your WeChat customers with discounted price if they manage to convince friends to join deals.
Another essential element of social sharing is to ensure that all of your posts have proper call to actions for readers to become followers (QR codes at the end of your article, etc.). This will enable you to best leverage social sharing from your existing readers.
5. Driving traffic from other platform and social networks
Final, you can leverage your existing brand assets in order to drive traffic to your WeChat Account.
These can include ensuring that your WeChat QR code is included on your website home page, or running an outbound email campaign to your existing users/customers asking them to follow your WeChat Account.
For some social networks (for instance Weibo which has investment from competitor Alibaba) it will be more complex to create bridges with WeChat, but some workarounds exist.
WeChat shop case studies
Botkier: NYC fashion sold to China via cross-border e-commerce
Botkier New York is a contemporary accessories line based in NYC and launched in 2003.
WalktheChat launched the Botkier WeChat and Weibo store in October 2017.
The launch on WeChat led to impressive results:
- 9.6X ROI achieved within the 3rd month of operation
- 750,000 users reached during Single’s day campaign
- 6X growth of WeChat followers during Single’s day campaign
Botkier further expanded its collaboration with WalktheChat through the launch of a WeChat Mini-program, the integration of its WeChat store with its U.S Shopify Plus store, and a launch on Little Red Book.
Giesswein: bringing merino wool fashion to China
Unlike the previous case study Botkier, Giesswein had no brand recognition in China when starting their collaboration with WalktheChat.
We leveraged WeChat influencers in order to generate traffic and sales. The first few campaigns reached up to 500% return on investment.
Since this initial seeding phase, Giesswein is receiving daily organic orders on their WeChat shop, and is running several campaigns per month to accelerate growth. So far, all of Giesswein campaigns have reached at least 100% of return on investment (for the worse performing campaigns, sales matched the investment in influencers marketing)
Giesswein is now expanding to new e-commerce and social platforms with WalktheChat in order to further expand its reach.
How to get started?
Why work with WalktheChat?
As we mentioned before, there is a wide variety of WeChat shop platforms available. If you are working in China with a local company and local teams, Youzan might be a perfect choice for you.
However, there are a few situations where WalktheChat will likely be the perfect fit:
- You want to sell cross-border to China via WeChat/Weibo/Little Red Book
- You need an bi-lingual Chinese/English interface
- You would like to integrate your WeChat store with Shopify, Magento or another Western e-commerce platform (WalktheChat also offers integrations between Shopify/Magento and other Chinese e-commerce platforms such as Little Red Book and Tmall)
What are other features of WalktheChat WeChat shops?
- Cross-border payments: receive payments from WeChat and Alipay directly to your oversea bank account
- Flash sales: offer limited-time sales in order to generate excitement and increase conversion rates
- Group-buying: turn your existing followers into brand advocates in exchange for discounts
- Real-time parcel tracking: enable customers to automatically track their parcel shipment without leaving WeChat
- Shopify/Magento synchronization: automatically synchronize product, order and inventory data between WeChat and your Shopify or Magento store
- Speed: our stores benefit from China hosting in order to optimize speed for local customers
- Analytics: track conversions and identify traffic and sales from each specific influencer or CPC/CPM campaigns
How to contact us?
In order to get started, simply fill our contact form. A WalktheChat representative will reach back to you within 1 business day.