If you want to create a business presence in China, you’re probably wondering how to use WeChat Business. This article will cover the differences between WeChat Subscription Account and WeChat Service Account, how to create WeChat Official Account and the WeChat Official Account verification process.
What is WeChat?
WeChat is the most popular chat app in China. Over the past few years, the app has seen tremendous growth in the number of global users. In 2012 WeChat had 50 million monthly active users and the number has skyrocketed to 1.2 billion by 2020.
Despite its rising popularity, many Western users are not familiar with WeChat. At first glance, it looks a lot like WhatsApp. But WeChat is more than just a messaging app. It’s a do-everything app that lets you send money, read content, and even apply for loans!
WeChat has four main panels. Chats and Contacts are what you would expect, containing your conversations and friends on WeChat. Interestingly, the Contacts panel has rather advanced organizational features including folders and tags.
Discover holds all the random WeChat features that don’t fit into any other panel. Last but not least, the Me panel is where users have access to personal items like settings, stickers and their profile. The Me panel also holds WeChat Pay.
WeChat Pay is one of the most common payment methods in China. It also accepted in South Africa, Malaysia, Italy, UK and Japan. In Japan, the number of stores that accept WeChat Pay increased 35x from 2017 to 2018.
To make payments users scan or display their QR codes. Since businesses can simply show a QR Code with a sticker or on their phone businesses no longer have to buy or rent expensive terminals. This has made WeChat pay wildly popular in-store and online.
Mini Programs are apps within WeChat, making WeChat more than just a messaging platform. The functionalities of Mini-Programs are endless including e-commerce, coupons, membership cards, games, rentals, AI fortune-telling and more.
Mini-Programs do not need to be downloaded so they load instantly. Limited to 10MB, Mini-Programs are like web apps that only work inside WeChat. Since they don’t need to be downloaded, they eliminate the need for users to go outside the app.
Mini-Programs have massive traction among WeChat users. In December 2018, WeChat Mini-Programs had 496 monthly active users (MAUs), growing to 746 million MAU in only 6 months. This success mirrors the popularity of WeChat itself.
Where is WeChat Popular?
WeChat was developed in China and launched in 2010. From 2012 to 2020 WeChat experienced explosive growth as it’s MAUs skyrocketed from 50 million to 1.2 billion. The ban of Line in 2015 and WhatsApp in 2017 likely contributed to this growth.
Since then, WeChat has always dominated the Chinese market. Around 79% of China's population uses WeChat and there haven’t been any competitors until recently. However, WeChat is unlikely to lose its crown because its features power the interactions of everyday life.
Now that WeChat has successfully dominated its home market, it's expanding aggressively in international markets by pushing WeChat Pay and enlisting celebrity ambassadors like Messi.
So far, we see that WeChat is seeing success in countries like Botswana, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. However, even in countries where WeChat does not have significant market share, it is extremely popular amongst the Chinese diaspora.
WeChat Business: Accounts
If you’re looking for a WeChat Business Account you have three different types of WeChat Official Accounts to choose from:
- Subscription Account
- Service Account
- WeChat Work
WeChat Work is used for internal company messaging like Slack or Google Chat. While WeChat Subscription Accounts and WeChat Service Accounts are used for connecting with customers. These accounts are intended for different use cases.
WeChat Business: Subscription and Service Accounts
WeChat Business Accounts have restrictions designed to stop companies from spamming users with push notifications. WeChat Subscription Accounts are designed for media, influencers, and organizations and allow daily broadcast messaging.
The downside of WeChat Subscription Accounts is they are nested inside a folder on the contacts screen. Therefore broadcasts would not send this account to the top of your screen like a friend messaging you. This is what service accounts are designed for.
Service Accounts are not hidden behind the subscription folder. So broadcasts appear to the top of the chat list. However, WeChat limits service accounts to 4 broadcasts per month. Service accounts are designed for customer service.
Looking to establish a business presence on WeChat? Find out how to create a WeChat Service Account in the following section.
Creating a WeChat Official Account
To start creating a WeChat Service Account, head to the WeChat Official Accounts Platform page and click register now at the top.
1. Selecting an account type. Companies registered overseas cannot open a Subscription Account. Click here to learn the differences between Subscription and Service Accounts. The account type cannot be changed after creation
2. Create a user account. Provide an email that you'll use to login to the admin panel. The email must not be linked to an existing WeChat Business Account. Enter the verification code sent to you.
3. Select your country. The documents required are slightly different depending on the country the company is based. Since July 2018, overseas WeChat official accounts are visible to all Chinese mainland users.
4. Provide your identification information. The next step is to provide identification information for the company and the admin. This includes
- Your company’s officially-registered name and registration number
- The account operators name, mobile phone number, and passport ID number
5. Choose an account name and provide a description. Create the account name. Add a short description of the account, and you are good to go!
That's it! You've created a WeChat Official Account. Once you're logged into the WeChat Official Accounts Platform, you’ll receive the following notification.
Unverified accounts cannot send broadcasts, create Mini-Programs or use other advanced functions. More importantly, unverified official accounts will be canceled after 30 days.
Verifying a WeChat Business Account
It’s free to set up WeChat Official Account, but official account verification costs money. Businesses also need to provide documentation. The process is rather cumbersome. Thankfully we are here to guide you every step of the way.
1. Input additional company info. This includes
- Company registration number, office address and office phone number
- Scope of business (description of business activities)
- Bank name of company bank account
- Bank account number
- Names of companies legal representatives (company directors names)
2. Validate the contact person’s information. The verification staff to contact the person in charge when going over the documents. Businesses will need to provide:
- Contact’s full name
- Mobile Phone number
- Verify with SMS
- Email address
- Landline phone number
- Passport number
3. Upload supporting documents. Provide supporting documentation for all the information you have provided. Make sure to scan the documents in color before uploading them. The documents needed are
- Business license
- Official application letter which can be downloaded from the system, but needs to be filled out, signed and stamped
- Contact’s mobile phone statement with name, phone number and payment history in the past 3 months
- Contact’s ID/Passport/Driving license copies, twice if it’s the same
4. Reserve your official account name. At this stage, businesses will need to decide their account display name. We recommend using optional vocabulary because no additional documentation is needed.
If the brand name is trademarked, select the trademark option and upload the relevant documentation. News agencies should use the media name option and upload their broadcast license.
5. Pay the fee. Pay the annual fee of USD99 or RMB300 depending on the business location. The fee is not refundable even if the application is rejected.
Make sure to enter the bank account information precisely as given. Otherwise your payment will be rejected and you may encounter a bank fee i.
Once completed, you'll receive a call from a third party agency in 5 to 10 business days. Our agency was located in Chengdu.
The process is hassle-free. Their English was good, and they helped us to revise our application. Now that you have a verified WeChat Official Account, it's time to learn how to use it.
WeChat Official Account: Best Practices
You probably know how to communicate with customers using email, phone, or SMS. Chating over messages apps is a bit different. In this section, we’ll cover some best practices for finding your customers on WeChat and messaging them.
WeChat Business: Finding Your Customers on WeChat
Most messaging apps require users to message businesses first in order to open conversations. This is also true for WeChat Business, however, if users follow your WeChat Official Account you’ll be able to broadcast but not send an individual message.
WeChat has a few helpful features to get your customers to follow you and start a conversation. These include QR codes and in-app search.
WeChat Business: QR Codes
QR codes can convert offline traffic like foot traffic in a store to WeChat Official Account followers. QR codes can also be used on a website or in emails you send to customers. A WeChat Official Account QR code can be found on the WeChat Official Accounts platform.
Since the QR Code only works if users have the WeChat app installed on their phones. It’s important to put a WeChat logo somewhere next to the QR code. The QR code created by the WeChat official accounts platform already the WeChat logo included.
Other platforms provide a click to chat URL that takes users to your business account. WeChat does not provide this feature on the WeChat Official Accounts Platform. However, users can look for your WeChat Official Account using in-app search.
WeChat Business: In-App Search
Most messaging apps like LINE require users to enter business account name to do an in-app search. However on WeChat users can also search official accounts by a keyword in the description in addition to display name.
Businesses with a Chinese display name can include their English name in the short description, increasing their chance of being discovered. Now that you know how to find your customers on WeChat, time to start messaging them.
Messaging Customers Using A WeChat Official Account
Compared with other messaging apps, messaging on WeChat is complex. Today we’ll discuss 1:1 messaging, broadcast messaging, and group messaging.
WeChat Business: 1-to-1 Messaging
When it comes to 1:1 messaging, the two things to look for are messaging window and send/read receipts. WeChat Official Accounts are less optimal than other messaging apps as they have a messaging window and they don’t provide send/read receipts.
Messaging windows are popular for messaging app business accounts. They block businesses from responding a period of time after users sent a message to prevent spamming. WeChat Official Accounts have a messaging window of 48 hours.
When you do message your customers, you expect to know when they’ve read your message right? The message status is not provided either in the WeChat Official Accounts platform or the WeChat API.
Some messaging app business accounts will mark the messages sent by customers as read automatically. Messages sent to your WeChat Official Account will not be marked as delivered or seen. You can imagine, this will infuriate some customers.
WeChat Business: Broadcast Messaging
Once you’ve got 1-1 messaging figured out, you can start exploring broadcast messaging with WeChat. Since WeChat contacts cannot be imported, you’ll need to get your customers to follow you first before you can send them a broadcast.
Most messaging apps only allow text and images in their broadcasts but you can create rich content for WeChat Business Account. On WeChat Official Account Platform you can write a broadcast message with an HTML editor and even include a Mini Program in it!
WeChat doesn’t place limitations on the number of followers you can send broadcasts to. But there’s a maximum number of broadcasts you can send in a day or month. Any unused quota will not be carried forward to the next day/month.
All broadcast messages including targeted broadcasts will count towards the quota. You can target users based on tag, gender or broadcast area. But we don’t recommend sending targeted broadcasts because you will reach fewer customers.
WeChat Business: Group Messaging
Many companies are using messaging apps for sales by creating groups with salespeople and customers. Although effective, these chats pose a problem for companies as there is no record on them in company CRMs.
One way to deal with this would be to add a WeChat Official Account into the group chat, so the conversation could be recorded in your messaging CRM. We’ve tested this out, but unfortunately, WeChat Official Accounts cannot be added to group chats.
WeChat Business: Infographic
If you're getting started with using messaging apps for business, chat automation or WeChat Advertising we recommend you read these three articles: