What is WeChat?
Known as the “Super App”, WeChat is the Chinese social platform that has many apps (similar to apps like ours in the US) all integrated into one major platform. It was developed in 2011 by Tencent originally as a mobile text and voice messaging service, but has developed into much more! The app is available on Android, iPhone and Windows. WeChat’s features include video chat, voice calling, SMS, money transfer, transportation services, games and QR codes - to name a few!
Who uses WeChat?
Currently there are over 1 billion Chinese monthly active users with 100 million of those users being outside of China. (To put that into perspective there are 2.3 million Facebook users worldwide) About half of the WeChat users are between 20-29 years old and spend at least 90 minutes daily on the app.
What can WeChat do?
WeChat plays a vital role in daily life in China. With its vast capabilities, the app has been integrated into the daily tasks of its users. For example, It can now be used as a government form of ID and can be used as a form of payment at market places and many retailers.
Here’s a list of WeChat’s capabilities:
- Payment Function - You can pay bills, transfer money to other users, pay for your groceries and gas through WeChat.
- Identification - WeChat is a government run application so the country allows its citizens to use WeChat as a government form of ID.
- Communication - You can communicate with anyone using the platform. There is messaging, voice and video call capabilities.
- Moments Feed - Similar to our Facebook Feed, the WeChat 'Moments' lets you share photos and updates.
- Geo Location - The app allows you to share in real-time your location with friends.
- Information - Read articles through WeChat’s Public Accounts owned by news outlets, online media, and solo bloggers.
- Resource - Anything that’s been published or shared on the WeChat feed is searchable.
- Tradition - WeChat allows its users to celebrate the Lunar New Year through the app by sending money in a virtual red envelope. In the Lunar New Year Tradition family and friends gift each other red envelopes with money.
- Payment - Transfer money and pay in stores through the Wallet feature.
- Finance - Buy wealth management products and a virtual currency owned by Tencent through the Wallet feature.
- Transportation + Delivery - Get access to third-party services including ride-hailing and food delivery through Wallet (similar to Uber and UberEats)
- Services - Get access to public services such as booking doctor appointments, applying for government identification, visas and checking driving records.
- Apps - There are numerous Mini Programs in WeChat which are low-memory “apps”.
WeChat + QR Codes:
The presence of QR Codes can be seen throughout the WeChat app. QR Codes were favored in the US around 2010 but lost its popularity due to lack of technology development. China has continued to use and develop the use of QR Codes which can be seen throughout their Marketing. This popularity in QR code use is largely due to the fact that both Mandarin and Cantonese languages are difficult to read and understand - even for the locals. The QR code is appealing because the user is brought directly to the website without typing the url address. QR codes act as a replacement for printed marketing. Many people in the Chinese Market only carry a phone. The QR Code in China even replaces something as small and useful as a business card! This might just be the trendiest way to stay green in advertising!
How does this affect the US and Marketing?
The use of QR Codes in the US has already seen a revival. The newest Apple iOS 11 update confirmed its importance, as the camera can now scan QR codes. You may have noticed that many food packages now have a QR code leading to more information due to a new GMO law requiring more information be provided to consumers. The QR code is able to give the user more information so that space on packaging is not compromised.
We have also seen the use of QR Codes throughout our top social media platforms in the U.S like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, where the user can exchange contact/account info by a simple scan. Places like Walmart and Target have started allowing QR scanning as a form of payment in some locations. Paypal also allows its users to make payment using a personal QR code associated with their bank account.
The popularity of QR Codes in the US will continue to grow in China’s footsteps. Marketers should utilize QR Codes, especially in print advertisements. Incorporating QR Codes in print will finally make it trackable and help businesses in bridging their digital customer experiences.