Whether you’re out of the office and need a contract, in the shop and out of cash, or in the club trying to get a piece of that…QR code, WeChat is there for you. WeChat is everywhere for you. There might be a million examples that prove the absolute usefulness of this app, but nothing says it more when you consider that your life can be divided into life before and after WeChat. And of course, it’s no coincidence that that thin red line isn’t far from another thin red line: your life before and after coming to China.
As the most widespread app in China, WeChat has naturally become a powerful business tool. So much so that last week, there was a two-day conference, called CHat Shanghai, all about how to make China’s biggest digital platform work for business.
The two days, Friday and Saturday, held lectures, speeches, workshops on WeChat tools and case studies that shared the experiences of people who have had to become professionals at working with the app. Many in attendance were foreign businessmen, managers of overseas companies and start-up leaders out to pick the brains of those professionals.
The conference was split into the main stage and a demo stage on the rooftop of The Place in Xintiandi. So if you ever needed a breather from main stage speakers gesticulating over customer traffic graphics for WeChat, or demo stage speakers talking about more specialized WeChat topics, you could take in views of the surrounding city. Maybe take a sight and post it to your WeChat moments, along with your food pics showing the free flow wine, beer and coffee and the hip and healthy Saucepan food catering.
EnjoyShanghai had a chance to talk one of CHat’s organizers, Thomas Graziani, co-founder of WalktheChat.
ES: What do you think are the most common mistakes for foreign companies that are trying to enter the Chinese market through WeChat?
Thomas Graziani: There are few. You should not start on WeChat. Try Tmall, JD.com, Taobao, as these services are search-driven and basically they work for companies that already have search running, so customers are looking for particular products.
WeChat doesn’t work the same way, it works on a social basis, so that means, when you create your store there is no search that is going to drive customers to your product. That’s why companies need to have a clear strategy, which is going to take you from start to actually getting customers: setting up the store, cooperating with the KOL (key opinion leaders), and then maybe using mobile to extend this.
Sometimes companies do not realize that they actually need to do stuff to get traffic on WeChat, just your store being there is not gonna get you anything. WeChat search really sucks, it’s basically unusable and you really need to activate WeChat usage. If the company is well-established and customers are looking for the product of the company, then the company should start from JD.com and Tmall.
ES: Which Western app can you compare to WeChat?
Thomas Graziani: Facebook. They are integrating all the features to Messenger, so it’s becoming more like WeChat.
ES: Is there any possibility of WeChat conquering the West?
Thomas Graziani: No, they’ve been investing a lot of money and doing poorly. We made some analyses on data outside China and [found that] there [was] a piece of traffic [until] after [WeChat’s ]10th investment it decreases completely. They spend a lot of money on this case and got nothing. The network effect is too strong. WeChat can’t break it.
Though the conference’s tickets (888 RMB for two days, 588 RMB for one day) might seem steep, the CHat conference can be a vital asset to anyone who wants a piece of that massive WeChat market, or even just the Shanghai market. Sure, the speakers were knowledgeable and experienced, but the crowd itself—full of business cards and QR codes worth having/scanning during the naked Hub after-party. Definitely something to look out for the next time it comes around.
by Jane Polubotko