Insights Consumer Trend

The virtuous circle of the WeChat ecosystem

Roger Mu
Content Specialist

It wasn’t so long ago that websites were the keystones to establishing an online presence in any market with a well-developed Internet, but if you asked anybody where people would go to find a brand’s official online portal 10 years ago, the last thing they would have thought would be a messaging app.

Yet here we are today in 2021 and that is exactly what Wechat has done with its complete ecosystem of mini-apps, social media functions, and digital payment systems that have all but dominated digital life in China, a reality that is demonstrated by the messaging platform’s almost 1 billion active users.

If you’re looking to find out more about a company or product, just type its name in the WeChat search bar; you’ll get the company’s official account, social media posts from the company, industry watchers and consumers, and you’ll find a wealth of articles that a China outsider would only expect to find in a Google search. You might even find online retailers who have set up e-commerce channels directly on WeChat. 

So what exactly is the Wechat eco-system?

While the main touchpoint of Wechat remains its messaging and social functions, Tencent has vastly expanded the scope of its online services and offerings to keep its users firmly planted within the neat little borders of its online kingdom. Broadly speaking, they can be categorized under 3 major areas: social, commercial, and entertainment.

The social category includes its messaging functions and social media functions, the commercial category includes official accounts, e-commerce channels, customer service, and other business related portals, and the entertainment category includes games, articles, and videos. These larger, macro-categories are not exclusive of each other, however, as there are some micro-categories, such as content, digital payments, sharing, and group buying, which intersect and blur the lines by allowing users to seamlessly transition from one category to another. 

How does it achieve a virtuous circle with its ecosystem?

It is this seamless transition from social to commercial to entertainment which enables Wechat to be so addictively sticky for its users, and since everything is done within the ecosystem, it creates a positive feedback loop: a virtuous circle.

For example, a user might be scrolling through their friends’ Moments in the social category, then see a flyer for an event shared from an Official Account from the commercial category, then use Wechat pay to pay for the event registration, and finally share about their excitement in attending the event in Moments, thereby introducing the event to an even wider circle of friends and creating a self-reinforcing cycle.

The Importance of the Wechat Ecosystem to Businesses

The primary benefit of the WeChat ecosystem is not only that it allows companies to reach the app’s massive user base through easy-to-share links, sites and services – within the walled garden of the WeChat platform. It also permits businesses to host their own online portals through official accounts and offer completely customizable experiences through a modular back end. This in turn allows companies to mix and match the content and services that they want to offer their clients.

For the cherry on top, the backend also allows businesses to track the effectiveness and click-through rates of all of their articles, services, and other content so that they can build a reservoir of data upon which informed decision and plan-making can be accomplished. All of this is made possible through a backend system which is operated and updated by Tencent itself, thereby negating the need for a massive team of programmers and webmasters, and allowing the design and marketing teams to focus on what they do best: building a strong brand identity and effectively reaching the target consumer.

If you are one of those design and marketing teams that is looking to break into the Chinese market without setting up a whole team of coders, then read Researching e-commerce user experience in China to find out more about e-commerce in China and Touch can help your company to create your own virtuous cycle through a Wechat official account.