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Tencent Holdings Limited (“Tencent” or the “Company”, 00700.HK), a leading provider of Internet value-added services in China, announced the launch of the “WeChat Retail Growth Plan” this week, introducing specific measures aimed at supporting and facilitating the recovery and growth of the retail industry. These measures are meant to help global businesses and brands strengthen their understanding of WeChat’s tools and functions so they can efficiently leverage WeChat’s ecosystem to better resolve the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Chinese domestic businesses gradually begin resuming operations and production following the period of industrial standstill caused by COVID-19, the pandemic itself continues to spread and affect businesses overseas. During this period, growing online traffic and leveraging new opportunities and models for growth has become a key goal for businesses.
Unlocking Functionality to Help Drive Retail
Offline traffic at brick and mortal retail stores has drastically declined due to COVID-19, forcing many retailers to proactively obtain online traffic. Aside from traditional e-commerce models, emerging trends such as livestreaming are also being employed for retail. In February, WeChat opened WeChat Live for businesses, helping businesses to interact with customers and generate sales via Mini Program livestreaming.
WeChat Live is not only simpler, but also bolsters interaction and conversion within the WeChat ecosystem. Users can watch the livestream while making purchases and communicating in real time.
While WeChat Live can help businesses grow online traffic and expand their reach, WeChat’s 1 on 1 Consultant can also assist retailers in tapping into existing user bases and managing fans, helping to drive traffic and sales through their large networks of social connections. Service staff can initiate direct conversation with followers of Official Accounts, offering personalised services and relevant information, while increasing repurchases.
During the pandemic, WeChat Work became a key platform for remote working, and was utilised by a number of enterprises to connect customers with online business expansion efforts.
WeChat Work 3.0 went online at the end of 2019, granting businesses access to three major functions, namely direct customer outreach, customer WeChat Groups and customer WeChat Moments, to allow companies in empowering employees to directly interact with consumers. In order to improve online customer acquisition and operations capacity, WeChat Work launched a livestreaming function at the beginning of the pandemic. Users can initiate livestreaming, conduct online meetings and share them with WeChat customers.
From customer acquisition to transaction, WeChat Pay is a key step in helping to achieve closed loop transactions. In the five years since its launch, WeChat Pay has penetrated every aspect of Chinese users’ lives and covers 16 currencies in 60 countries and regions worldwide. During the pandemic, WeChat Pay also played an important role in cross-border e-commerce, local orders and self-service scan and go.
Chow Tai Fook, DFS, Farfetch and other leading brands provide solid examples of how businesses can optimise their use of WeChat’s amazing array of functions to best serve customers and continually upgrade operations. These companies have already successfully performed within WeChat’s ecosystem, and demonstrated innovative applications of WeChat’s many tools as a guide for other global brands.
Chow Tai Fook: WeChat Work Empowers Shopping Guides
The jewelry industry places a heavy emphasis on offline customer experience. For example, Chow Tai Fook, a jewelry industry giant with over 3,000 locations worldwide, was not immune to the challenges presented by COVID-19. However, due to the early deployment of online retail channels, Chow Tai Fook was still able to satisfy consumer shopping needs anytime, anywhere.
Chow Tai Fook’s CloudSales 365, an integrated online-to-offline tool developed on WeChat Work, connected the back-end information, content centres and CRMs of Chinese and international locations. This made it possible for the company to more deeply engage with customers. According to Deputy General Manager of Mainland China Management Centre Executive Office, Surrey Pau the platform helped Chow Tai Fook achieve “employee empowerment.”
Examining the consumption environment in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, shopping guides can continue to keep in touch with customers even after they leave the store using WeChat Work, personalising recommendations based on customer preferences to facilitate sales. After the pandemic passes, Chow Tai Fook will also be able to use the “Voucher Distribution Center” to issue coupons and encourage customers to continue shopping at its stores.
“WeChat Work does not just represent traffic,” notes Surrey Pau. “We want to keep people with charisma to retain and redirect customers. In this way, we want to highlight three value points – establishing a connection to products, establishing a connection with customers and establishing connected services.”
DFS: Creating a New Shopping Experience with WeChat
DFS, located in airports and city centres around the world, offer numerous items and goods important to Chinese travellers. Although the pandemic is significantly affecting global tourism, DFS has managed to achieve great results toward digital transformation with the help of WeChat’s ecosystem.
DFS established its own membership program within WeChat. Specifically, the “DFS T VIP Club Mini Program” converts overseas brick-and-mortar shoppers into online members by allowing users to continue enjoying various member-only services following purchases. Over one million members have joined since the launch of the DFS Mini Program.
Additionally, DFS has expanded its operations into new, online sales channels, creating a “Friendly Shopper” sales model allowing users to make purchases on products offered at offline store via the Official DFS WeChat Account. Then, users send a link of the purchase to shoppers overseas to assist them in picking up the purchased items at the DFS store. The entire process broadens participation in shopping at DFS stores for Chinese consumers unable to travel, while simultaneously optimising the overall shopping experience for them.
“Maintaining customer support is no easy task,” explains Zac Coughlin, CFO of DFS Group. “We need to constantly innovate through this innovation. We discovered that Tencent is an excellent partner, and we are honoured to have a place in the WeChat ecosystem. This is a social network built on public preference. DFS uses content to attract consumers and create the seamless experience they so desire, so that they can make the best use of their money.”
Farfetch: The story of cross-border E-commerce Marketplace in WeChat Ecosystem
Farfetch, the largest global luxury fashion e-commerce platform, proved its strategic investment in China has progressed in an incredibly powerful way that the GMV of China region grew faster than the overall marketplace during the global health pandemic. The smart leverage of WeChat capabilities such as Mini Program, WeChat Live etc. has paved the way for Farfetch to stand upon WeChat ecosystem and make the win.
Farfetch has envisioned to build a MATRIX in WeChat, stretching from content (Official Account), marketplace (Mini Programs), to direct engagement with users (chat groups). The Farfetch KOCs are called “Kang Mi Ti”, a phonetical translation of Community. Today’s success of Kang Mi Ti chat groups came from the well curated stylist e-workshops, organic fashion interest sharing etc. These added-value services effectively accumulated to increase customer stickiness and retention. The sales came organically from users to users, not from Farfetch push.
Furthermore, on April 15, Farfetch held its first WeChat Live, inviting popular fashion blogger Anny Fan to assist three Farfetch product developers to style themselves. The livestreaming incorporated real-time product recommendations, professional customer service, and reality show drama. The tentative curation and production are keys to prove that livestreaming is a viable channel to drive retail sales for luxury fashion brands.
Luxury fashion brands are increasingly utilising social media as a major medium to extend market presence, connect and engage with younger consumers. Positioned as “Luxury Gateway to China”, Farfetch is actively leveraging new technologies and tools to agilely adapt to changes in consumer preferences and trends and serving as a partner for brands to win the China market.
WeChat Helps Global Retailers Overcome the COVID-19 Challenge
Chow Tai Fook, DFS and Farfetch are excellent cases studies on how the WeChat ecosystem can help traditional retailers achieve their digital transformation. However, they are by no means exclusive cases. WeChat’s ecosystem has helped and continues to help many companies and brands achieve similar transformations and their operations.
Faced with the challenges brought about by COVID-19, companies will most likely redouble their efforts in exploring new models of online and offline integration. For international and domestic retailers who previously emphasised offline operations, digitalisation will present unique challenges. As such, WeChat has launched a number of supportive policies to provide merchants with resources at every level in empowering services, strengthening operations, increasing promotions and many more. WeChat is committed to helping global retailers take full advantage of the WeChat ecosystem to proactively adapt to industry changes.
WeChat connects brands with more than 1 billion Chinese consumers, allowing businesses to easily tap into the new commercial opportunities within its rich user landscape, and create win-win models for both consumers and companies.
For any business interested in joining the “WeChat Retail Growth Plan” to digitally transform and upgrade sales, services, traffic and brand operations by leveraging WeChat’s ecosystem, application can be submitted to [email protected].