The Chinese super app WeChat is not only a superior social media tool (as I wrote here), it is also at the forefront of mobile e-commerce innovation that the West has never seen.
As of this writing, WeChat has over 800 million users (yes, it seems that WeChat’s user base is growing by the minute). Better yet, its users are super active. An average user checks into the app 10 times a day. They are practically living on WeChat.
This has created a tremendous opportunity for brands to reach consumers. Reports indicate that brands in the fashion, watches, and jewelry categories receive an average of 7,000 views per WeChat post.
WeChat offers platforms for brands to engage in interactive and one-to-one communication, driving online-to-offline activities and encouraging loyalty. WeChat’s payment system allows brands to sell directly to consumers seamlessly. Its true potential has yet to be tapped.
Here are three examples of how some Western brands have pioneered using WeChat to sell to Chinese consumers.
Dior’s Customizable High-end Handbag Dazzled Consumers
French luxury brand Christian Dior has traditionally shunned e-commerce for fear of brand dilution. However, recently it launched a bold campaign on WeChat for its high-end Lady Dior handbags and enjoyed a huge success.
Dior planned this campaign for Qixi, the Chinese Valentine’s Day, which fell on August 9 this year. Before the campaign, Dior announced through its WeChat account, which is similar to a Facebook page for businesses, that there would be a limited edition of Lady Dior handbags that were specially designed for WeChat users, and they were only available for a short period of time. This created a sense of scarcity and urgency.
Remarkably, WeChat’s user interface let consumers customize the handbag by dragging decorating elements, such as a red heart or a floral-design badge, to the shoulder strap on a digital image (see image above). This made shopping on WeChat fun and interesting. Western e-commerce sites do not yet have such ability.
Consumers completed their purchases on WeChat by using its payment system. The original campaign was planned from August 1st to August 4th, but by August 2nd, the Lady Dior handbags, which had a price tag of 28,000 yuan ($4,210), were sold out!
Burberry’s Campaign to Drive Online-to-offline Traffic
British fashion brand Burberry has successfully launched a gift-giving campaign this past February during Chinese New Year. The campaign aimed at selling gift items directly on WeChat, and at the same time, driving traffic to its local stores.
During the New Year celebration, the fashion brand launched “A Lunar New Year Gift” on its WeChat account. People visiting the page saw an image of a golden cylinder-shaped gift with a pink ribbon, animated with sparkles shimmering from its base (see image above).
WeChat users were asked to “shake, tap and swipe to try and open the gift.” Once a user shook the phone or tapped the screen, a greeting message appeared saying “Wishing you a very happy and prosperous Lunar New Year. From Burberry, with love.”
Then, the user could select a gift such as a Burberry cashmere scarf, choose their favorite color, and include a personalized greeting to their families or friends who are also on WeChat.
Consumers could send multiple gifts. They were encouraged to browse Burberry’s Lunar New Year gift recommendations, which included gifts for men, women and children.
By participating in the campaign, consumers were given the chance to win limited-edition Burberry Lunar New Year envelopes, which had to be picked up in a store. Thus, Burberry drove signifficant traffic to its local boutiques, which resulted in more purchases.
Berluti’s Interactive Contest to Promote Brand Awareness
Paris-based men’s luxury shoe brand Berluti is known for its youthful appeal. Berluti used WeChat’s interactive features to introduce its 2016 new style called “Fast Track,” which combines a calfskin dress shoe upper and a rubber-soled sneaker in one.
On August 1st, Berleti launched a three-week contest on WeChat. From Burleti’s WeChat page, consumers could watch videos, learn about the brand, and take a closer look at Fast Track shoes.
On the next page, Burleti’s brand ambassadors, typically trendy Chinese celebrities, discussed the needs of both fashion and function for footwear, and asked consumers to vote for the style they liked.
Once consumers made their selections, they would enter their name, phone number, email address and address. This gave Berluti the opportunity to learn more about its customers. All these activities were performed interactively within WeChat.
Many in the West would be worried about privacy issues, but the Chinese seem unconcerned.
Each week during the contest, one contestant won a pair of Fast Track shoes, which cost $960. By engaging intimately with consumers on WeChat, Burleti was able to increase its brand awareness in China.
WeChat also offers coupons and many other promotional features that are largely underutilized by brands.
All these innovations are nonexistent in the West. As I wrote two years ago, China will lead innovation in social and mobile commerce. Vincent Digonnet, executive chairman of digital consultancy Razorfish, said that China is at least ten years ahead of the West in e-commerce, which now seems an understatement.