WeChat’s Next-Gen: ‘WeLife’ Previewed at China Connect, Shanghai 2018

The Luxury Conversation attended China Connect’s Shanghai 2018 edition, which featured expert speakers talking about what’s currently at the tip of the spear of engagement with China’s consumers. A wide-ranging and insightful event, attended by over 300 people, China Connect was held at The Explorium on Yishan Road.

Among the engaging talks was that by Sophia Ong, GM of Strategic Partner & Key Account at Tencent, in which Sophia spoke about the well-known (let’s go ahead and call it God-like) power of WeChat and the Tencent eco-system.

Sophia’s presentation clarified that luxury brands need to quickly maximise their WeChat adoption and adaptation in order to keep up with the expectations of the Chinese consumer. Here are the key takeaways from the talk – with a thrilling preview into the next generation of WeChat commerce capabilities: WeLife.

All Roads Lead From WeChat

Wherever you sell your product, the journey begins on WeChat. According to Tencent data, product selection doesn’t take place on an e-commerce platform, where browsing for products is minimal. Generally, only 1.6 brands are viewed on average before making a purchase. This clearly indicates that content really does come before (not simultaneous with) commerce, and with WeChat being used by 98% of Chinese digital users, it is still the solid foundation of content.

If using WeChat for your brand isn’t already smack-in-the-face-obvious, then go right back to the beginning of what is the China digital landscape. The question is how best to use WeChat.

WeChat ads can be very successful, if used properly – meaning that in fact they are not ‘ads’ at all; they are enticing gateways which a brand creates in order to tempt the person in, in order to get them to ‘do’ – whether that’s play a game, watch live-streaming of an event, further engage with a loyalty program to earn points and so on. The key point is to not waste the budget or opportunity simply to advertise a new product or promotion, without an entire integrated campaign ready, once you have earnt that tap-through.

AI – the Future Now

Ask yourself what types of AI would be relevant to your brand? Interactivity and future-now technology is expected by Chinese consumers. For example, Lancome created a mini-program which lets users try on a variety of different make-up products. Based on their skin tone and facial features, it recommended the ideal options for lipstick and more. The same technology could place your product range besides the user as they pose with their phone, place them within your hotel room or facilities to see how they look on the balcony of the Presidential Suite, or virtually connect them to your brand via endless possibilities.

Social Gifting

Starbucks were first to use WeChat coupons, which could be bought for personal use, or sent to friends. Opportunities abound for gifting: consider how China loves love – there are four Valentine’s days in a year! The ‘real’ Valentine’s Day, White Valentine’s Day, ‘520’ (which sounds like ‘I love you’) and Qixi (traditional Chinese Valentine’s Day). Imagine the potential if Chinese men were given a seamless, contemporary method of discreetly showing their affections by sending a WeChat giftcard of differing values to purchase your brand’s range.

Defining ‘Targeted’

Keep in mind that data privacy varies in definition, and know the power of WeChat technology. If you have a campaign which has venue-specific criteria, WeChat can target users within varying distances from the venue. Perhaps you are offering weekday or after-work classes (e.g. cooking, make up or personal tutorials), courses, promotions or other offline activities which may most interest white-collars who are working near the area? Targeted location ads are now a reality.


Media meets commerce – a seamless journey between content to commerce. While in the West the ‘journey’ is disrupted by the gap between media and shopping, this is integrated by an improvement in the path from WeChat to JD.com. WeChat has just recently added direct-commerce functionality, whereby you can type in product names in your WeChat search bar and be shown items sold on JD.com.

We Life – WeChat’s Next-gen Wonder

WeLife was recently trialled by Max Factor – an automated store at which shoppers scan the product themselves and pay on WeChat, with no need for any form of check out. But that’s not all – far from it.

For the shopper, they can indeed scan to pay, as well as pay by facial scan. The feeling that this was found to give was in fact ‘leaving without paying’ – with no set transaction moment, so that when the shopper left the store, they felt as if they were indeed leaving, rather than ‘paying and leaving’. For brands, the functionality is mind-blowing:

Heatmaps show where shoppers walked, spent more or less time at, and further technology even showed how they interacted with products. Maybe they picked the product up, looked at it and didn’t buy it – giving vital information as to the reasons why they chose not to purchase or interact with it further. AI even read facial expressions to gauge the feelings of the shopper during each product interaction.

What About Smaller Brands?

Most examples featured were from the biggest companies who have the biggest budgets to try the most imaginative options. If your brand is not at that size (yet), then Sophia suggested working with the KOLs who have their own WeChat commerce channel – many have tap-through commerce on their Official Accounts, and more even have their own WeChat mini-program, such as Mr. Bags and Gogoboi. This allows you to be present on the WeChat mini-program eco-system without the all-in initial investment, until you see that it works for you.

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