WeChat—already having taken China by storm as Weixin—went global in 2012, effectively tripling its user base in less than 9 months. So what is it about this app that has over 300 million users hooked and why should you be paying attention?
First, don’t let the name fool you; Tencent’s WeChat is not just another generic, chat-focused mobile application. Rather, WeChat—an amalgamation of social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, Talkbox, Instragram, Skype, and Grindr—has transformed itself into a social media platform. With all the functions of some of the mobile market’s most popular apps rolled into one neat interface, it’s hard to imagine why you’d ever need to leave WeChat. And that’s just what the people over at Tencent have in mind.
Following a similar trend to chat app rivals, Line and Kakao Talk, WeChat has integrated Tenpay (Tencent’s payment service) into its platform in order to commercialize its user base. If Kakao’s experience in South Korea with 22 million downloads (almost half the South Korean population) of the game Anipang is any indication of the success of such integration, WeChat is sure to thrive given its much larger user base and extensive localization efforts (over 30 countries worldwide).
As part of its move to commercial social platform, WeChat has, according to Tencent’s Singapore and Malaysia Country Manager, Louis Song, “already opened its API to third party developers, [which] means any third party apps can integrate with WeChat, and enjoy the big WeChat user base for their potential growth.” This offers smaller app developers an alternative marketplace to iOS, Android, and the rest, leveraging WeChat’s already massive user base.
Additionally, Song says “WeChat will also connect the online to offline (O2O) by QR code,” allowing companies greater advertising opportunities and consumers improved methods of discovering new goods and services. This tried and true method—look at Groupon or OpenTable for proof—is where any business looking to increase offline sales should and will be investing.
It cannot be stressed enough that even with such a large user population, WeChat still only has room to grow. WeChat first got its start due to parent company Tencent’s initial success with instant messaging platform QQ, which currently boasts a user base of 800 million. While WeChat has experienced most of its success in Southeast Asia—Malaysia’s user population grew to over 1 million in less than six months—its popularity is growing in the West.
Upon the release of last year’s final quarter fiscal reports, Sina Weibo chairman, Charles Chao commented, “There’s competition in the market,” and named WeChat a direct competitor. It may only be a matter of time before Facebook and others are facing similar market pressure.
This article was published in the 2013 edition of HQ magazine, a publication of CSOFT International. If you’re interested in learning more about CSOFT’s globalization and localization solutions, don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed for automatic updates