After crossing the 300 million user mark within 2 years after launch, WeChat is going to launch the latest new version 4.5 with more features to offer. Interestingly, the team behind Wechat neither accepts interview requests nor reveals anything strategically about WeChat except for regular updates on user numbers and new functions. I guess they just don’t have to court media for public exposure as the service is hands down the darling of more than 70% of Chinese mobile Internet users (420 million by last year).
With such a huge user pool, many kept tabs on the app’s every single new move to examine its quest to monetization, local portal Netease made some interesting assumptions on what WeChat could do to pull in some checks.
Zhang Xiaolong, head of Wechat and a VP of Tencent once said that “Multi-talented app is meant to be mediocre in all aspects.” He obviously didn’t mean the current Wechat, right? Since the messaging app has already been loaded up with varied features as QR Code, open platform, private social networking, voice notes…, etc.
Eyeing its popularity among users, it’s understandable hard for WeChat’s siblings to keep their hands off the untapped land. Tencent’s lifestyle ecommerce division contributes to all the local merchants and their partly-annoying coupon notifications on WeChat, other promotions going on within the mini ecosystem was taken care of by some other Tencent departments. Many 3rd party developers also self-invited themselves into WeChat’s public platform and even started businesses there, like selling cosmetics or taking lunch orders. Things could get worse if the burgeoning business is stuffed with too many unnecessary information, the real users could be driven away.
Fortunately, WeChat suspended a string of features which might annoy users after reflecting on its and its siblings’ aggressive moves.
The Monetizing Quest
Now it seems that Wechat is a successful exception of a heavily loaded app product, thanks to the restrictions added to service. Such a popular app is always expected to profit well. It is predicted that Wechat is about to profit in this year. To me that’s more of expectation less of well-reasoned predication.
Here’re some of the monetization methods WeChat could adopt:
Dai Zhikang, GM of lifestyle e-commerce division revealed in an interview last September that Wechat would partner with Tenpay launching QR code payment and shake-it transfer. This payment partnership would soon expand to cover more merchants.
Kakaotalk, the mobile messaging app that Tencent put in RMB 400million has proved that people love to play games with friends and this will make money. Tens days after its mobile game launched, it hit the GooglePlay billboard. Some guess are that if Wechat ever releases a social game such as cards, it can surely make revenue from 3rd party game publishers.
- O2O Practice
Last year Wechat released virtual loyalty program for users to subscribe to official merchants accounts for discounts. The possible monetization model could be revenue-sharing with merchants or the sales of membership cards.
- New e-commerce channel
We’ve already seen some Taobao vendor started selling stuff on WeChat, mostly, they use WeChat as a new marketing channel.
2013: Eyeing Globe
Wechat surely has dominated China; its next goal would be conquer the whole world. Pony Ma once said on Sina Weibo that he looks to global expansion from WeChat.
April 2011, Wechat debuted in the global market with this English name (Wexin is the Chinese name) and now it is available in over 100 countries, in 15 languages. Zeng Ming, the product director pointed out that “We have won users in southeast Asia and Mid-East, but not really in Europe and the States. That’s our next challenge.” It is also revealed that data centers in US and southeast Asia will be built to better serve different regions and fit into local markets.
Wechat’s new international official site
Image Credit: Wechat.com