3 Reasons Why People Love WeChat

Asian woman looking at phone

By Tricia McKinnon

WeChat, founded in 2011, is China’s largest social media / messaging platform. In 2017 it had 963 million monthly active users.  While it has fewer users than Facebook it provides insight into what Facebook could evolve into in the future.   You can do almost anything on WeChat including hailing a taxi, playing video games, booking doctor’s appointments and accessing banking services. In 2017 nearly a third of time spent in mobile apps in China was spent in WeChat.  On average more than half of WeChat users spend more than 90 minutes per day on WeChat.  Note, Facebook reported that on average users spend a total of 50 minutes per day across its Facebook, Instagram and Messenger platforms.

The popularity of WeChat can be traced to its third-party apps, mobile payment platform and its “red packets” digital gifting service.

Third Party Apps

WeChat, which can also be called the everything app, contains over ten million third-party apps.  One of the reasons WeChat has taken off is because email never became dominant in China providing space for messaging apps to become popular.  Unlike how the app ecosystem is structured in North America and other parts of the world with separate apps for everything from fitness to travel all of those services can be accessed through WeChat.  

Mobile Payments

Need to buy a new pair of shoes or a drink at an outdoor market? This can be done using WeChat Pay. Customers can scan the QR code for the product they want and pay for it using WeChat. WeChat links user banking information to the third-party apps on the platform.  This makes it easy to buy products and services directly through the app.  Chinese consumers make 11 times more mobile payments than Americans do.  WeChat has a 40% share in the mobile payment market in China behind Alipay which has a 54% share.  China is the only market in the world where digital payments dominate.  WeChat is widely popular with 90% of consumers using it as a method of payment for offline purchases.

Red Packets

To celebrate special occasions such as Chinese New Year people typically give red envelopes containing money to friends and family.  In 2014 WeChat provided the option to send red packets, digital versions of the red envelopes, to people using the WeChat platform.  By 2017 the volume of red packets sent on WeChat grew to 46 billion.  It is estimated that in 2018 80% of people in mainland China will send digital red packets.  WeChat has used red packets to fuel the growth of its payments business.

David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products at Facebook calls WeChat “inspiring”. Facebook has plans to turn Messenger into a platform where users can buy things and interact with businesses.  A look at the list below of the types of activities that can be conducted through WeChat provides insight into the services that may be available through apps like Facebook in the future.  

What Users Can Do Through WeChat

  • Pay bills

  • Make donations

  • Buy plane tickets

  • Read the news

  • Online dating

  • Hold a video conference

  • Conduct a business chat using a service similar to Slack

  • Access banking services

  • Order food

  • Make social media posts

  • Online shopping

  • Book doctor's appointments

  • Play video games

  • Hail a taxi

  • Messaging


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Tricia McKinnonChina