Although instant messaging tools are most commonly used by individuals for personal communication (C-to-C), WeChat, a leading Chinese IM app, gradually established its presence as a major channel of online marketing (B-to-C). The newly launched WeChat 5.0 gives special focus to business users by adding a list of new features that caters for the business demands.

Alexis Bonhomme, the general manager at Curiosity China, a WeChat integrated agency focuses on foreign premium brands promotion, shared with us his experiences of running marketing campaign on WeChat platform at Shanghai Fashion Web recently held by digital consulting agency Velvet Group.

There are two kinds of business accounts, the service accounts and the official accounts. Both of them integrated navigation menus in the interface to include richer contents.

Service accounts allow brands to send messages directly to the personal chat windows of each consumer, which guaranteed high visibility and opening rate. Contrary to online marketing on Weibo, where companies can push ads at a high frequency, service accounts can send around one push marketing message per month. This restriction not only protects users from spams but also encourage brands to be more creative in compiling ads. The main idea is to provide high-quality content experience and increase the activity rate on the WeChat brand account. This kind of one-to-one communication is especially suitable for the promotion of premium brands or high-tier services, because it guaranteed the senses of “exclusivity” and “intimacy”.

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The official accounts of Wechat 5.0 are basically consistent with the 4.0 version in terms of functions. Official accounts cannot send ads to individual chat windows like service accounts, but it allows higher ad pushing frequency of one message per day. However, this mechanism leads to risks that users may “unfollow” the account to avert ad harassment. Official accounts will be more useful for mass-market brands that aim at maximum followers.

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With the newly added payment function, WeChat users can purchase products from e-commerce platforms, such as BuyQQ, Amazon, Yihaodian, or Dangdang, via their credit cards bundled to WeChat accounts. Users will be directed to the platforms that sell their desired products by scanning the QR codes.

Both of the abovementioned accounts feature more CRM technical tools like listing all the stores of a certain brand and help users to pinpoint the nearest outlet or find sales promotion based on LBS. Moreover, this feature will help the promotion of brands so as to increase the traffic of new or less-known outlets.

WeChat also kicked off several technical developments for the new version. The LBS function will provide a better online to offline user experience. For example, if a Guangdong-based customer is shopping in a Beijing store of certain brand that he or she is a member, we can imagine in the future that the system will suggest the shopping guide to talk to the customer in Cantonese.

When companies post ads on different advertising channels, such as various fashion magazines or websites, there will be tiny differences in the QR bars printed on them. In the back-end system, the companies will know which customer is from which channel, a valuable data to support the compilation of future marketing strategies. Last but not least, WeChat starts to be seen as a R.O.I calculator and is used to increase the efficiency of the marketing spending.