The 26th February - 2nd March saw Social Media Week return to Bristol, a global conference held in over 25 cities worldwide. Creation attended events around the city throughout the week spanning a range of topics. One that particularly stood out was the WeChat event at River Cottage Kitchen.

What is WeChat?

Super App? Social channel? Advanced tracking tool? Yes, is the simple answer to all of these, but WeChat goes further than this and transcends categorisation. WeChat, the most used app in China, is your; Messaging, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Ebay, Uber, email, Tinder, Online shopping, Bank, (the list could go on and on…). All of these services and more, in one app. To give some perspective of the scale of this, WeChat has over 902m daily active users with this figure increasing around 20% per year. With a significant impact on the user journey of a whole host of day to day tasks and activities carried out, the app has created fluidity between apps that traditionally would be completely separated:


As the video above highlights, due to the ‘Great Firewall of China’ the necessity for innovation has played a huge part in the success of WeChat. China has one of the highest internet restriction policy in world, meaning that access to everyday applications we are familiar with are nearly all forbidden. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ goes the old proverb, however in this case restriction has forced innovation - ironically. We have seen a shift in the way this ‘super app’ is being used for such a wide range of services that it has overtaken many western apps such as Facebook Shopping, who are now using WeChat as an example of how they can move forwards in to diversifying their services.

What’s the catch?

Well, you might have seen this one coming. When you use a single app that has 29% share of Chinese phone users time on a daily basis, huge amounts of data can be collected on an individual. WeChat know exactly where you are going, what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with at pretty much any time of day. For this reason, consumers can be profiled far more accurately than anything we could imagine in the West and can be instrumentally used as a marketing tool when it comes to communicating with a desired audience. The downside is that companies such as WeChat are forced to share this information with the Chinese Government…. and you thought Alexa listening to your conversations over dinner was bad enough.

The Future?

WeChat has definitely given marketers food for thought. With superior tracking and pin point profiling, things are changing. Once possibly disregarded as an Eastern solution to strict internet regulation policy, we now look at WeChat as a window into our potential future for smartphone uses. Ever growing beyond Asia, with 70m users outside of China, WeChat is shaping the smartphone landscape and could see the way we use apps significantly change.

By Gwilym Evans on 23/03/2018