WeChat has surpassed 1 billion users over a year ago and has certainly made the world turn heads. But whether it’s the unfamiliarity with the app or inexperience with a Chinese market, Western companies are still hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. In today’s article, we hope to demystify the process of getting an official WeChat account and show some of the benefits of using WeChat for business.
Types of WeChat Accounts
Under the umbrella of WeChat official business accounts, there are actually two types of accounts. These are subscription accounts and service accounts. Which type of account you should open depends largely on what you plan to do with the account.
If you want to make direct sales from your account, a service account is better for you. If you want to draw attention to your brand through posts and articles, a subscription account will be a better choice. But we’ll get into the types of accounts a little later.
Applying for an Account
There used to be some tough restrictions on who could reach users from the Mainland. In the past, there were separate platforms for Chinese users and international users. The Chinese platform was only in Chinese and required a Chinese ID, phone number, and business license. The international users were limited to a different version of the platform with a foreign-only audience.
But as of February 2019, WeChat is taking more steps to close the gap. Foreign companies can still apply for a Chinese platform account through an agency that helps them with the legalities if they so choose.
The easier way, however, is to apply independently for an account on the international platform that will give them access to Mainland Chinese WeChat users. WeChat is still working on translating all of the platform’s functions into English so having a Chinese speaker manage the platform is a good idea for the time being.
The process of applying isn’t overly complicated, but it does require preparation of a lot of forms. You will need to submit a list of documents proving your legitimacy as a business. This varies depending on what type of business and what type of account you are applying for. You can submit the application via the WeChat website and wait for the results which should be ready in about two weeks.
What’s the Deal with Getting Verified?
In addition to the trust you will gain from potential customers, from a technical point of view, there are certain APIs and other features that are unlocked as soon as the verification process is complete. The verification process costs 300RMB (roughly 45 USD) for the Mainland China platform and 99 USD for the international platform.
Something to note is that if you go the traditional way of enlisting an agency’s help to join the Chinese version, you will also pay agency fees that will put your expenses higher than if you applied for the international version independently. Your account’s verified status remains active for one year from the date of the verification.
Which Account is Right for Me?
Okay, let’s get back to the types of accounts available. Between subscription accounts and service accounts, you have two solid options to choose from. But it all starts with you assessing your marketing plan and identifying the goals you have for the platform.
WeChat Subscription Accounts
As we mentioned earlier, this type of account is all about information communication. Each day, businesses can publish once a day with 1-6 articles at the time of each publishing. The great thing about the subscription account is that it prioritizes the time of published content and places it at the top of the WeChat search engine.
The not-so-great news is that users have to go to a separate folder to see their subscribed accounts and they aren’t notified with a push notification when an account they subscribe to publishes new content.
WeChat Service Accounts
For businesses that provide services and products, a WeChat service account is the best option. It offers some great functions for business including:
- WeChat Pay (Mainland platform)
- WeChat Stores (Mainland platform)
- Instant customer service
- Geo-location services
- HTML 5 campaigns
- 4 publishing times per month (1-6 articles at once) with push notifications
- WeChat mini-programs
- Voice recognition
- URL shortening
- Multiple QR codes per account
Maximizing WeChat for Business: Utilizing All Functions
These functions are the tools that will allow you to target users, show them why your product is great, and then build a relationship with them turning them into loyal customers. Let’s look at how to maximize the use of some of these functions.
Step 1: Finding the Customer
Setting up a WeChat Store is a really great tool for any businesses that are using the Mainland platform. It is directly connected to WeChat Pay, which allows customers to make one-click payments within the platform. For businesses on the international and mainland platforms, you can use the WeChat generated QR code as part of your marketing strategy and post it on business cards, brochures, and social media channels.
Since WeChat now allows multiple QR codes per account, you can have a print and digital QR code to see where you are making the biggest impact in terms of customers.
Another way of getting customers is to create an interactive HTML 5, or H5 campaign by creating a game, quiz, or animation. This way, you make you turn your existing brand into a creative one that merits the attention of potential customers.
Step 2: Piquing the Customer’s Interests
The next step is to utilize a loyalty program to get customers interested in deals that you are offering both now and in the future. As you may remember from our previous post, Chinese users are always shopping around for the best deals. Creating a membership program and giving exclusive promotions will make shoppers more open to spending their money on your brand.
Along with a membership program, another cool function is using the geolocation feature to send promotions to customers who are close by. The idea here is that you offer your members a discounted offer; they visit and become enticed by your brand.
Step 3: Turning a One-Time Customer into a Loyal One
Users then use the one-click payment system to make a purchase. If customers are on the fence or have any questions, you can use the instant customer service function to address their concerns. This way, you can start to build a reputation as a company that cares about the quality of its service and relationship to its customers.
Once you look at all the functions WeChat has to offer, it’s easy to see why it has the potential to be a gold mine for brands that are new to the platform. It’s worth to mention here the numerous opportunities you’ll have to target new customers using WeChat advertising. So that just leaves with… what are you waiting for?