WhatsApp and WeChat – Changing the way We Do Business?

‘Social messaging apps’ are applications and platforms that enable instant messaging, many of which started around social networking platforms. If you  live in the Western Hemisphere there is a high chance that you or someone you know uses  ‘WhatsApp’ heavily as a major communication tool. If you live in the East and more specifically China for example, there’s a possibility that you may not have even heard of WhatsApp, but you will certainly be familiar with the app ‘WeChat’ as a communication tool.

At the start of this year, WhatsApp announced the rollout of a version specifically for businesses; WeChat on the other hand has already gained a significant lead over WhatsApp in terms of business use & integration with commerce.

Let’s deconstruct both of these applications and explore how these platforms have risen to impact the way we conduct business.

WhatsApp and WeChat in Numbers

WhatsApp, launched in 2009 was acquired by Facebook in 2014. According to Statista, WhatsApp currently has more than 1.5 billion monthly active users globally making it the current most popular mobile messaging app worldwide. A survey taken of 187 countries (using android data) showed that WhatsApp was the most popular messaging app in 109 of those countries.

WeChat was launched in 2011 by developers Tencent Holdings Limited, it currently has over 900 million active users globally, with 90% of this customer base being in China. The platform currently ranks third in the list of the world’s most popular messaging apps, (Facebook messenger being 2nd). The same survey  showed that WeChat was shown to hold the number one spot in only 3 countries, (admittedly one of those countries is China with a population of over 1.4 billion people).

Each Application has its key advantages

With WhatsApp you can use the internet to send messages, documents, images, audio, and short videos, the developers are even piloting a payment service in India. Live location sharing and group chats are also some of the most coveted features amongst users. There’s a desktop version available from the WhatsApp website. The business version allows you to add a business profile, and access messaging statistics; undoubtedly, more pronounced differentiating features will be developed over time.

WeChat has become a one stop shop for everything. It’s known for its Mini Programs feature which incorporates many different functions and programs developed from Tencent and independent developers. In January 2018, WeChat announced a record of 580,000 mini-programs in its feature. It allows you to do everything that WhatsApp can, plus so much more, including, playing video games, or contacting strangers. Imagine WhatsApp, Tinder, Uber, your local bank, all merged together, and accessible via a single interface – this will only start to give you a picture of the endless WeChat universe. Both applications are available across multiple platforms.

The Business Implications of both Applications are Vast

  • Increased internal communication: Simpler, and faster that writing an e-mail.  The option to set up groups works well since most people already use the apps and don’t need to download any new software to stay connected.
  • Cost Control: Businesses find that using these muti-platform applications as an alternative to traditional mail, SMS or even Email campaigns cuts communication costs significantly.
  • The blurring of Personal & Professional Communication: The distinction between personal and professional communication has become increasingly vague as businesses communicate from behind ‘personal’ profiles. Users receive responses from businesses with increased informality, outside of traditional business hours and even using emojis.
  • An advantage for Micro-Enterprises: A local fruit and vegetable seller may easily send a group message to his regular customers showing his fresh new arrivals. Many start-ups use WhatsApp or WeChat as their main way to communicate with customers. It also provides an avenue for digital marketing.
  • New ways to pay: Opening up possibilities for new customers, and businesses to take payment or transfer money with less involvement from the banks than before.
  • Business Engagement:  WhatsApp and WeChat allow businesses to effortlessly engage their user base; soliciting feedback and providing beneficial information to users. Additionally, in the case of WeChat, customers are frequently asked to complete surveys and openly share their experiences.

Final thoughts

Apps like WhatsApp and WeChat are quickly becoming the norm in relation to business. Since they’re both already well accepted, businesses may soon need to consider them as essential tools in the fight to remain relevant and competitive.