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Emmanuel Brousse
News | 1er mars

The cash machine app
The Chinese shook their telephones 11 billion times last year in order to make 80 million dollars. A rich idea made by WeChat.

Chinese Propaganda for WeChat © Gunter Von Kloster Kampen
Today China has 520 million smart phone users. 400 million of them use WeChat. The app has rapidly transformed from a simple instant messenger to a hybrid platform.
Unlike Facebook or Google who have become a success story after being born from the imagination of a handful of entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley, the launch of WeChat by the Tencent tycoon has been accompanied by a big advertisement campaign. The app has become a monster within barely five years by combining considerable financial means with a strategy adapted to its market.
The value of WeChat is now estimated at 60 billion dollars which is three times higher that the value of its occidental concurrent Whatsapp. It must be said that to the contrary of Whatsapp, WeChat has succeeded in transforming its free app into a cash machine thanks to the sale of downloadable games and of stickers that can be used to illustrate the chat.
“WeChat can simply not be compared to Skype or Whatsapp”, explains Vladimir Djurovic, CEO of Labbrand, a strategy consulting firm founded in China in 2005. It’s true that the first use is to meet friends, but it’s also possible to follow the pages of celebrities or brands. It’s at a same tome a communication tool and a social network where you can install game apps, order taxis, pay online...”

The big success of the “red envelopes”

The incentive to resort to chargeable options is permanent and the Chinese app is far more ‘monetized’ than its occidental equals. WeChat offers a micro-payment service comparable to Paypal which does not only enable the users to pay games, but also to exchange money with their contacts. At the occasion of the New Year 2015, WeChat has set up a system inspired from the hongbao tradition, hongbao being the ‘red envelopes’ which the Chinese use to exchange gifts every year.
From now on it’s possible to send small amounts via WeChat with an animation inspired from the traditional envelopes. Launched with great enthusiasm and in partnership with television channels this feature has known an incredible success. For the Spring celebration gala of CCTV, WeChat offered 80 million dollars in the form of hongbao which the app users could try to win by shaking their phones. The campaign has been phenomenally successful: The Chinese shook their phones 11 billion times and they sent more than one billion hongbaos to their loved ones.
This year, WeChat couldn’t count on the support of CCTV but it has attempted a new commercial coup by launching a new feature for several days. This time users can send blurred photos to their contacts which can be made discernible again if the recipient sends a hongbao to the sender. This feature has been less popular among the users who have denounced a means to “make your friends pay for selfies” et who have worried about the possible spread of pornographic images.

Apps designed for China

But this minor throwback won’t stop WeChat from trying to stand out thanks to its original and intelligent features which are well adapted to the Chinese market. “Shake” allows for users to exchange and to become friends with another, unknown user who is shaking his phone as well. Through the even more original “bottle to the sea” feature, messages can be send to a random user who can chose to answer them or not.
All these features designed and calibrated for the Chinese market know a certain success elsewhere. In certain African countries as well as in Spain and India, WeChat has started to enter a market which is however quite dominated by the American giants.
Crédits photo : Gunter Von Kloster Kampen
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