JD and Tmall may be top of mind when it comes to e-commerce, but don’t neglect WeChat. China’s most popular app gives brands access to hundreds of millions of monthly active users, with simple ways to sell via mini-programs and mobile websites. AppInChina explains how to sell and promote your products via the WeChat ecosystem
Where can businesses sell on WeChat?
Mini-programs and mobile websites are both used to host e-commerce stores within WeChat. Both can be accessed from Official Accounts, articles, users sharing to individual or group chats, or by scanning QR codes.
WeChat mini-programs for New Balance and KFC
WeChat serves as an app store for Mini-Programs, which are apps that function inside of WeChat. This often gives the best experience for users accessing your e-commerce store through WeChat.
- Development is usually faster than with a comparative e-commerce website
- Access to Subscribe Messages to send service notifications to users
- Recent and bookmarked Mini-Programs are easily accessed
- Quick access to the user’s phone number without sending a verification code by SMS
- Can access advanced phone features such as Bluetooth, accelerometer, gyrosope, WiFi etc.
- Larger and more aesthetic appearance when shared to chats
- Cannot be accessed outside of WeChat. This limits advertising on third-party platforms.
- Code updates must pass verification before going live, which can take 1-48 hours
- Currently cannot be shared to WeChat Moments on iOS devices (likely to change)
Mobile websites for Pinduoduo and Lululemon, usually accessed via a link from a brand’s official WeChat account
Mobile websites, known as H5s in China, are accessed via WeChat’s built-in web browser and usually function almost as well as Mini-Programs.
- Can be accessed outside of WeChat
- Do not appear directly in search results (but Official Accounts, articles, and Moments posts can be searched)
- Less attractive when shared to chats
There are also several ‘no code’ platforms that allow sellers to open WeChat store websites without developing their own platforms – a kind of ‘Shopify for China’. The leading providers are WeiDian, WeiMob and YouZan.
What functions can be used to promote WeChat stores?
The official WeChat Accounts of food brand Bob’s Red Mill and Nike
WeChat Official Accounts
Official Accounts let sellers post articles about their brand and direct users to their store. Articles can be shared to individuals and group chats, as well as WeChat Moments, and users follow the account to receive notifications for new updates. Depending on the type of account, they can post daily or weekly and can appear directly in WeChat’s list of chats alongside the user’s friends and group chats.
A branded live stream with products listed for purchase
Channels allow brands to post videos and live stream. Product demonstrations, tutorials and comparisons are effective ways of engaging the audience and communicating product quality.
Compared to features offered by other short video platforms, Channels is an especially effective marketing tool because it leverages WeChat users’ contacts to push content viewed by their friends directly to their daily feed
How can businesses ensure they are legally compliant?
All websites and Mini-Programs in China require an ICP Filing to operate and depending on the scope of your products, additional licenses such as the B25 Value-added telecommunications license, EDI license and industry-specific licenses may be required. Certain products face limitations (such as baby products, milk powder, pet products, alcohol) and if you are offering products from multiple brands, you will need to qualify as an e-commerce platform. More information on the licenses required for different stores can be found here in WeChat’s support documents.
The most recent rules on personal data privacy require Chinese user data to be stored on servers within China. Since local servers are needed for the best user experience anyway, this shouldn’t be a problem for new store owners.
WeChat also has clear and effective rules to protect users from unethical business practices such as scams, spamming, and false advertising. A self-review conducted according to the WeChat Mini-Program Platform Operation Rules is recommended before submitting for approval.
How can businesses take payments through WeChat?
WeChat Pay functions smoothly within Mini-Programs and mobile websites, and can be set up with a business license, required industry licenses, a corporate bank account and real-name verification.
Companies without a legal presence in China may be restricted in business scope and cross-border payments, so it is often recommended to partner with a local company that can assist in obtaining necessary licenses.
Now that we’ve covered the tools provided by WeChat to power your e-commerce business in China, it’s a straightforward formula: Mini-Programs and mobile websites showcase your branded products like a physical store, whereas WeChat Official Accounts and Channels are where effective marketing occurs. Finally, it is beneficial to find a Chinese partner like AppInChina for streamlined compliance fulfilment, cross-border payment setup and customs clearance so that your e-commerce business with WeChat can run legally and smoothly.