WeChat, or Weixin, launched today the long-awaited system for businesses to set up stores within the ecosystem. The store is named WeChat Little Store.
Store owners will be able to upload and manage items, manage orders and shelves, among others. A purchase protection program is also available for filing and settling complaints.
Managing the store, according to the instruction, seems easy and sellers will have a dashboard to manage orders, check out notifications or read metrics.
The payment process is, of course, supported by WeChat Payment, a one-click mobile payment solution developed by Tencent’s online payments service Tenpay.
Application now is open to businesses which have had WeChat official accounts and integrated WeChat Payment — Many businesses who can accept payments actually are selling goods through their WeChat Service Accounts.
It is a move that is expected to happen sooner or later. Alibaba, the biggest Chinese online marketplace owner who is working hard on mobile commerce too, sensed the challenge a while ago and had blocked webpages from its own marketplaces from being shown within WeChat last year.
But it’s not the first time Tencent entered into Alibaba’s turf. The Chinese instant messaging giant rolled out customer-to-customer & business-to-customer marketplaces and online payments service Tenpay around the time when Taobao marketplace got much traction and beat eBay China.
Now everyone knows the result: After failing in operating those marketplaces, Tencent bought a controlling stake in online retailer Yixun. But the online retail business is such a thin-margin business compared with Tencent’s other online businesses such as gaming. Very recently Tencent transformed almost all of its e-commerce properties to Chinese online retail and B2C platform provider JD and now is the second largest shareholder in the latter.
JD was added as the official shopping channel onto WeChat a couple of days ago. Yihaodian, a Chinese online super market Waltmart has a controlling stake in, also has been integrated into WeChat in a similar way.
Now Tencent is inviting all businesses to set up stores onto the WeChat platform. If Tencent does it right this time, I think there are at least two reasons: (1) It built and started promoting WeChat Payment early on that it’s now to many a convenient and trusted mobile payment service; (2) It chooses to open the platform to third parties instead of operating anything on its own — also from them there will be future revenue sources. The two factors were also two of the reasons that brought Alibaba to where it is today.