It’s a no brainer that social media and mobile applications have contributed to a more globally connected society. Platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are used worldwide. While American platforms are well known, the same cannot always be said for their Eastern counterparts. Applications can often be used for different needs in a variety of countries and, these apps often times adapt to the local culture as well. So that readers can understand more about platforms from East Asia and beyond, we decided to create a short series highlighting them. This week international app highlight, we are kicking off with the Chinese powerhouse, WeChat.

Why WeChat?

The main reason we picked WeChat is the lifestyle that surrounds it. Users outside of China can download WeChat but are limited to only its messaging platform. Where WeChat truly shines is within China as it has shaped the way many Chinese interact with each other and the local economy. That type of success is not easily recreated in foreign markets.

The success of WeChat in China can be seen in its numbers and the effects of it. Tencent, developer of WeChat and other Chinese internet apps, reported that the app has hit 938 million monthly active users this May.

The Chinese population is at 1.379 billion as of last year while the U.S. stands at a mere size of 323.1 million. This means the entire population of the U.S. plus some have adopted to using the app. The effect of a large population using WeChat and its services has also affected the way money is handled. While apps such as Venmo have only become recently viral and is still a standalone service, the integration levels of WeChat have let its users pursue a cashless lifestyle.

WeChat Features

The cashless society that WeChat allows is also in part to the adoption of QR codes. From adding friends to paying for lunch, QR codes are how it’s all done. While QR codes could have been the next big evolution in user interactions in the U.S., it never caught on. Only recently has Snapchat brought QR codes back into the limelight with snapcodes.

WeChat features

So, let’s dive into the features and UI of this app.

The ultimate integration

While mass adoption is necessary for an app to be successful, the fact that WeChat is a one app ecosystem allows for greater integration into user’s daily lives.

A phenomenon not seen within the U.S. app ecosystem, WeChat can be labelled as a one app ecosystem since it hosts a plethora of services that work within each other. To compare it with western brands, its Facebook, Skype, Amazon, Mint, Fandango and others all wrapped into one.

Below are some features of the app and descriptions for the unique features:

  • Messaging
  • Stickers
  • Red Packet (Money transfer)
  • Shake (a method to begin messaging strangers also “shaking”)
  • Salary Saving Plan
  • Credit Card Payment
  • Coupons
  • Pay For Daily Bills
  • Medical Services
  • Charity Donation

WeChat shake

Seem overwhelming? For the unfamiliar it can be. The idea of a one app system is the ultimate convenience along with a stellar marketing strategy. Everyone and everything communicates together within an app. From businesses to someone looking for a quick bite to eat. Generating leads then come from app adoption and with some simple promotion, you have 368 million potential consumers at hand.

WeChat ecosystem

WeChat Beyond China

For those interested in more in depth coverage, The Economist’s article on how WeChat provides a blueprint for the future of social media is worth checking out. Quoted from the above article, media platforms in the U.S. have taken inspiration from the runaway success of WeChat:

Better-known rivals in the West regard WeChat’s rise with more than a tinge of jealousy. One executive, David Marcus, who runs Facebook Messenger, a popular messaging app run by the social network, is willing to talk about it openly. He calls WeChat, simply, “inspiring”. His plan, to transform Messenger into a platform where people can communicate with businesses and buy things, sounds familiar.

Innovation and inspiration for features can stem from anywhere. For now, the eyes are on China. It will definitely be worth keeping track of how WeChat features will be adopted and integrated into the Western markets, and if they will catch on or not.

WeChat also gained attention in the music world through Chinese rap group Higher Brothers. This is due their single aptly named WeChat which is promoted by Asian media company 88rising. The music video is shot within the app of WeChat:

There’s no Skype, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram
We use WeChat

Thanks for reading!

We hoped you enjoyed our brief coverage of WeChat and its ecosystem. Next week, we will be looking at another Asian app powerhouse. Want more content? We got you covered.

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