What Western Messaging Apps Can Learn from WeChat
May 25, 2015 |
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By: Jillian Lau

WeChat has taken over China. Aside from messaging, it has become the go to app for anything you could possible need. Need to share a photo with your network? Post it on your moments. Need to find new friends? Shake your phone to find people close by. Need to call a cab? Link your bank card and your ride is on its way.

WeChat is pushing the limits on what a messaging app should be. With features like Moments, Wallet, and public accounts, this messaging app is the envy of all other messaging apps. In the Western app world, the features of WeChat exist as individual apps. As WeChat continues to push the messaging app boundaries, we expect to see Western apps doing the same.

Social Sharing

WeChat has developed its messaging app into a social media app. WeChat allows users to share glimpses into their lives on WeChat Moments. Users can share photos, videos, and links with their contacts. This feature is similar to Twitter in that users can just share a quick thought or moment of their lives.

Social Payment

WeChat Wallet allows users to link their bank cards to their WeChat account so they can pay for taxis, buy movie tickets, and send money to friends. This feature is like a more advanced Venmo, a Western social payment app.  

Business Accounts

WeChat engages with businesses by allowing them to create public accounts to reach the WeChat audience. There are two types of public accounts that WeChat offers: subscription accounts and service accounts. They serve different functions so it depends on what your business goals are.

The subscription account is more focused on developing a customer base and extending a brand’s image. With this type of account, WeChat allows a business to send a message to their followers once a day. Companies are able to create profiles and provide information about what they do.

Service accounts only allow businesses to send messages once a week. Service accounts have the option of incorporating WeChat’s payment feature into their profiles so users can purchase products from companies directly from their WeChat service account. Service accounts are like individual company apps such as the Starbucks app.

Companies can also incorporate loyalty programs with their public accounts. WeChat keeps track of user’s loyalty cards under “Card Pack” in the “Me” section.

Games

WeChat even has its own game center. When you click on “Games” under the “Discover” tab on WeChat, it will take you to your phone’s app store when you can download the game. While it sounds like WeChat is just directing you to the app store, once the game is downloaded, you can play with your WeChat friend or find friends nearby to play with.  

Unique Chat Features

Within the chat portion of WeChat, users can send sights, engage in a video or voice calls, share their location, and send voice messages. WeChat also has an extensive free sticker gallery for cute and fun expression.

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Western messaging apps have begun to take notice that WeChat is a force to be reckoned with. Kik has already begun to rival WeChat with promoted chat and a wide sticker gallery. Facebook has announced that it too will begin to implement several of the features WeChat has had for a while, such as games, payment, and communicating with businesses. A new Facebook messenger feature that WeChat doesn’t have is partnering with other companies to provide more methods for expression such as Giphy and JibJab.

While Western messaging apps are adding more features to capitalize on an existing user base, the basis of all messaging apps, simply put, is for people to message their friends. However, Western messaging apps are facing serious competition from current texting plans which come bundled with a data plan, making third party messaging apps superfluous. In all other parts of the world, texting comes as an extra cost so messaging apps that use up data are a welcomed alternative.

That being said, messaging apps are, at a global level, being rapidly incorporated into our daily lives. With current features to communicate with friends and purchase products, who knows what’s next for these apps. All we know is that we better start getting used to using them sooner rather than later.

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