WeChat is the largest and most profitable messaging platform in the world, although it is most common in Asia and, more specifically, China. It has more than 549 million monthly active users, so it is not surprising that many forward-thinking Western brands already view WeChat as a legitimate extension to their digital marketing campaigns. The platform certainly represents a creative opportunity in a new digital space. But what are the implications beyond Asia? Well, it could just be the start of things to come in the UK and Europe. With Facebook messenger looking to move in a similar direction to WeChat, we thought we’d examine the types of campaigns that might soon be possible closer to home.
As it stands, large fashion brands are taking the lead on WeChat with larger and more visible campaigns, due to the fact that they are able to take advantage of their already strong brand presence in the continent. Notably, WeChat is not a good platform for smaller/undiscovered brands since the search functionality is fairly basic and users must know the exact username of a brand to find its account.
The fascination with the platform for most though, is due to the many diverse functions that are supported, as compared with the likes of Facebook. This means that brands are able to be more creative with their campaigns. And since WeChat also limits the number of communications brands are able to broadcast each day to prevent overexposure to branded content for users, it is also important for brands to ensure the quality of their messaging.
Our interest in the platform has led us to research a number of effective brand campaigns that use a range of the different available platform functions. The opportunities for brands to be creative comes from the platform’s ability to use all of a smartphone’s sensors, beyond the camera and keypad, as sources for data input. The success of these campaigns is largely due to the fact that they engage users in ways that foster enjoyment and brand loyalty by placing consumer experience, rather than sales, at the centre of the activity.
With the WeChat platform open to developers, brands are able to build dedicated micro-sites for their campaign content as a social hub for interactivity and engagement. A great example of this was created by Chanel, who built a fashion micro-site to house details of its global campaign with interactive features including the latest brand news, a history of the brand, new products, make-up tips and more.
With the flexibility to build small apps on top of the existing WeChat platform, brands have also been able to create engaging games and competition entry forms. U.S. fashion company Kate Spade launched a sky lantern game where users could select a lantern colour and write their own message on it before releasing it into the sky. Participants were also entered into a competition to win Kate Spade products.
3. Integrated online to offline campaigns
It is important for brands to note that in China a large proportion of the population are not just mobile first but mobile-only, with many people not owning a computer at all. Considering this, brands have been able to place the user experience at the heart of their campaigns, and by extension, fluidly integrating the campaign from online to offline.
For Uniqlo, this opportunity translated into a ‘Style your life’ project, bringing together physical stores and online image sharing. Users were encouraged to try on outfits in front of store mirrors, which were designed to give consumers access to a number of backgrounds such as a London skyline or downtown Tokyo. These images were uploaded to WeChat where they could be shared with friends. The campaign created a 150% rise in WeChat followers over 6 months and boosted sales by 30%.
Competitions are universally acknowledged to increase consumer engagements with brands because users are motivated to engage by the potential to win. To support the opening of their new flagship store in Shanghai, Burberry held a 5 day giveaway competition giving users the chance to attend the opening, while in the meantime, followers on the platform were able to interact with images of London and Shanghai skylines by shaking, swiping or tapping their devices.
5. One-to-one comms
First and foremost WeChat is a messaging app, so naturally it supports chat functionality that brands are able to utilise in order to communicate with users on a one-to-one basis, during campaigns or for general customer service. In an early campaign, Starbucks used this function to send songs to users who privately messaged them using emoticons. The songs chosen were to reflect the mood of the emoticons that were sent. By the end of the month-long campaign they had 62,000 fans and received an average of 22,000 messages per day.
6. Using voice
Voice messages are particularly popular on WeChat, because users find them quicker and easier than typing messages in Chinese characters. PepsiCo were able to tap into this user behaviour during the last lunar New Year in a campaign they called ‘Bring Happiness Home’. Users were able to record an audio message that would get mixed in with the soundtrack of a well-known ‘Bring Happiness Home’ theme song to send privately to family or friends.
Payment for goods or services on WeChat is possible by a one-click checkout process, without ever leaving the app. Thanks to this, brands are able to make sales directly off the back of campaign activity on the platform. Brands have so far experimented with two ways of doing this.
H&M created an online mini shop, where consumers were able to browse and pay for clothes without leaving WeChat by utilising “one-click-payment”. Brands can therefore upload products, manage orders, and take care of customer relationships.This function both enhances the user experience and increases significantly the sales conversion rate.
Smart Car pioneered a new flash-sales technique called ‘snap-up’. The sales event was scheduled one month ahead, and a limited number of products were sold at a discount. One month before the sale, interested parties are asked to register, and in the following weeks a small deposit is requested. Participants are then usually assigned a time slot during which a limited number of products are on offer to compete for. Impressively, 338 Smart cars were sold within 3 minutes of the flash sale. More than 600,000 users followed the launch, and 6,677 sales leads were generated.