WeChat Pay is testing a new feature which translates into “Friend Membership” which enables merchants to offer special deals and promotions to regular customers, according to Chinese media reports (in Chinese).
With the new feature, merchants can add regular customers to their account, which functions as a loyalty program. They can then push exclusive discounts, promotional deals, and new product announcements to members’ social feed, called Moments.
The intention, like any loyalty program, is to encourage consumers to continue to shop at the store.
WeChat Pay’s new move is seen as a strategy to expand its offline payment service, specifically targeting smaller businesses, by offering a new way to capture and retain customers. In the past, the most common ways to gain loyal customers were limited to cash-back deals or reward point schemes.
The “Friend Membership” feature allows merchants to develop and roll out different promotional campaigns. It offers better convenience and a direct way for smaller merchants to gain and manage loyal customers.
The official English name of the feature could not be immediately determined by TechNode. WeChat representatives were not immediately available for confirmation Tuesday evening.
China’s payment war is spreading across online and offline retail. Over the past few years, WeChat Pay and rival Alipay are acceptable payment methods in convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, public transport, and other high-frequency locations. To attract users, the two digital wallets are now locked in a competition to expand offline.
WeChat previously announced plans to invest RMB 300 million (around $44.7 million) to attract third-party services specialized in offline promotion. Alipay also said in 2017 that it would allot RMB 1 billion in rewards to third-party services over the course of three years.
Tencent’s WeChat Pay has around 900 million monthly active users (MAUs), while Ant Financial’s Alipay has over 500 million monthly active users.
A recently published statistical report by China Internet Network Information Center stated that in 2018, nearly 68% of China’s internet users used a mobile wallet for their offline payments.