The adoption and growth of social commerce has rapidly accelerated in China during the coronavirus crisis. During the peak of the virus, physical retail business was down 60-80% and in many cases down to 0 with forced closures. Confined to their homes, people spent more time on their phones, averaging 7.3 hours per day. Much of that time was spent on WeChat, causing mini program store sales volumes to surge 50-1000%.
As life in China has begun returning to normal, brands should be thinking about how to set themselves up for success post virus. Although stores have begun to reopen, many people remain cautious about venturing out, and may continue to purchase goods through e-commerce channels as they have already become accustomed to shopping online. This is particularly true for middle-aged and elderly consumers, whose children may have taught them how to use mobile commerce platforms while stuck at home during the prolonged Spring Festival holiday.
So now that people have adapted to the home-bound lifestyle, businesses must as well. Brands need to start asking themselves, how can we connect and build relationships with customers completely online?
Be Active on Many Channels, But Use WeChat as the Hub
Social commerce campaigns have become the new norm and play an integral part in driving conversions, loyalty, and retention for brands. However, a multi-channel strategy often means fragmented, disjointed data storage and management systems that render brands unable to leverage the power of consumer data in targeting and seeing effective results.
The ability to leverage multiple key channels in a complete digital transformation to drive social commerce should now be the core foundation for your overall sales strategy.
We feel the best way to do this is by focusing on WeChat. It is China’s top communication channel and, despite some naysayers, it is not going anywhere. It has only become stronger and seen more use during the virus period.
The benefit of building a WeChat-centric social commerce strategy is the ability to create a seamless experience for your users while at the same time accumulating a significant amount of data to build rich, detailed customer personas. Within WeChat, brands can track every interaction a user has with any of their WeChat properties, including Official Account menu clicks, QR code scans, mini program viewing history, etc.
Creating complete customer journeys within WeChat allows you to own the data you’ve collected and retarget individuals without having to pay commissions for conversion. Marketplaces are part of the strategy and integral to driving revenue, but WeChat gives you the most ownership and freedom.
What’s more, data from other touchpoints, such as the major marketplaces, can be pulled together and funneled back into WeChat to create a cohesive strategy.
WeChat Features That Facilitate Social Commerce
What is unique about WeChat is that it provides a multitude of social engagement and e-commerce features all within one single app. Here are some of the key ones:
Feature: Social Sharing
E-commerce Application: Social Buying
As China’s top app for communication with friends and family, people are used to sharing content with one another and we see numerous brands leveraging that sharing behavior for e-commerce and brand building purposes, whether that is encouraging consumers to:
- Share a mini program card in in a group with a group-buy offer
- Post a promotion on Moments
- Offering a purchase as a referral to a friend
Feature: Trackable Mini Program QR Codes
E-commerce Application: Store and Product Promotion
WeChat and WeChat Pay are responsible for making QR codes ubiquitous in China and make it easy to drive users from content to a product or service page. Brands can insert a QR code directly linking to a mini program product in WeChat content, menu bar, ad placement, or allowing users to share it to a conversation with friends, chat groups, and Moments.
Feature: Template/Service Messages
E-commerce Application: Event Promotion, Purchasing Notifications
WeChat Service Accounts can push an unlimited number of template messages to their followers but the content and format of these messages is highly restricted and must follow strict industry specified template provided by WeChat. These messages can be used to send followers notifications such as purchase notifications, payment notifications, booking notifications, etc.
Feature: Online Customer Support
E-commerce Application: Customer Support
Add a Contact Us button in your commerce mini program’s homepage, product page, and Me page. Even once the user leaves the mini program, the customer support dialogue can be found in their chat feed under “MP Customer Support Messages”.
Feature: WeChat Pay
E-commerce Application: Payment
One-click payment with WeChat pay allows for a streamlined commerce process which translates into a higher conversion rate. If a user stops mid-payment, you can use the template messages feature above to automatically send them an abandoned cart reminder.
Feature: User Information Authorization
E-commerce Application: User Information Collection and Binding
This feature of WeChat allows for one-click authorization to obtain user profiles and create personas. Brands can collect the user’s phone number and the list of addresses which are associated/stored in the user’s WeChat account. Binding a user’s Union ID and PII is extremely important as it allows brands to track that user’s behavior across all your WeChat properties.
Feature: WeChat Coupon
E-commerce Application: E-coupon Offering
Based on captured data such as user interactions, certain products they’ve viewed, past purchases, etc., brands can offer relevant coupons via the mini program store. Being able to send the right coupons at the right time significantly increases conversion rate.
- Social commerce is a must-have strategy inside and outside of China during this difficult time
- WeChat is not the only digital channel you need to focus on but due to its abundance of features and its user behaviors, it should be used as your core engagement and data hub
- Commerce mini programs are essential during coronavirus period and their use will continue to grow even after China returns to normal
To watch a presentation on this topic, check out the replay of our recent webinar on e-commerce mini program best practices: