One of WeChat’s greatest strengths is that it’s constantly evolving and improving. But this makes it hard for brands and businesses to track all its new features and developments.
Nobody was expecting the latest transformation the app has gone through, which made significant changes to the information available on of the APP itself. Until recently, brands could display content only in their WeChat official accounts, a customizable space completely dedicated to their content. In order participate in the brands’ activities and see what it was communicating, WeChat users had to become followers of the official account, joining a closed community of fans (literal translation of WeChat followers is actually fans). If one of the followers shared the brand’s content to it WeChat moments feed, the article would be also visible to all the all their “circle of friends”.
The 6.6.1. version of the app, released in December 2017 features a new option in the discover section. “Search” is an open search where a variety of content from inside the wider WeChat ecosystem is visible to the searcher without that user having to follow any given brand. Brands are now using this feature to direct users who search for them to an e-commerce check out page, either within WeChat via their Chinese websites.
This change helps WeChat is become a more and more comprehensive social, branding and news platform. In May 2017 WeChat had delivered an internal search engine, which differed from the sector leaders Baidu and Sogou in being more “social”: When inserting a keyword, the WeChat users would find recent news, friends mentions and WeChat related articles published by relevant official accounts. All these results remain within WeChat.
2017 was the year of WeChat mini programs, and of all the useful services that mini apps provide, in WeChat Shop Mini Program are near the top. WeChat official accounts have always had an e-commerce feature within its management platform, although its capabilities were basic. WeChat mini apps improve the shopping experience and pose a real threat to Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao.
Both the “search” feature and the WeChat store mini programs are clear signs that Tencent is trying to provide a space for e-commerce within WeChat.