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Jessica Miao explores how Western companies can leverage China’s obsession with social commerce. 

China is in the midst of a social commerce revolution. The explosion of mobile payment systems such as Alipay and WeChat Pay has seen cash disappearing from the shopping experience as people embrace mobile wallets. 

With WeChat Pay, AliPay and other online payment services integrated into the Chinese social ecosystem, consumers are spending more money than ever. Using these platforms, Chinese consumers can shop, pay bills, order tickets and transfer money to friends without leaving their social media apps. Then can also use them offline to pay at restaurants and stores. 

Last year, Chinese consumers spent more than 99 trillion RMB through online payment platforms such as WeChat Pay and Alipay. WeChat Pay claims to have more than 400 million daily active users, who make more than 500 million transactions each day. Its rival AliPay has more than 450 million users in China.  

Clearly, China is leading the world in social commerce, so how can marketers leverage this trend?   

Harness the data to create a conversation   
As Chinese consumers tap away, many have no idea how much money they are spending on a day to day basis. Savvy brands have moved to harness this insight and create infographics showing users how much money they spent throughout the year and what they spent it on. The move was a hit with consumers who took to social media to share their data and boast about their purchasing behaviour. Brands with profiles on WeChat and Weibo can harness their users data to better understand when they are spending and what they are buying. These insights can then be integrated into digital planning and strategies to ensure you target users at the best times with content and offers that are relevant to them. 

Merge payments into the marketing platforms
Chinese consumers now expect everything to be online – especially shopping! 
Marketers can leverage this insight to embed payment mechanisms within all of their branded digital channels. This means ensuring their brand social media channels have product and payment options for fans. By using WeChat as a sales channel as well as a marketing channel, brands can ensure the control the purchasing process and ensure the experience is good for customers. This gives companies the ability to convert conversations into sales behaviours and ensure that everything a brand’s Chinese consumer wants is at their fingertips. 

Embrace China’s Key Opinion Leaders 
While social influencers are an established method for brands to harness, China’s Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are taking the brand endorsement into brave new territory by launching their own brand stores online. KOLs have been endorsing and recommending brands and products for years, however, the ubiquity of WeChat Pay and AliPay means they can easily establish their own online stores and sell products direct to their huge audience of engaged fans. As KOLs become their own marketing and sales channels, their value to brands increases even more, and marketers may look to create deals and even offer exclusive products for KOLs to sell their products to their loyal followers.  

Jessica Miao is chief executive officer of UMS, an independent digital agency which specialises in connecting international companies with Chinese consumers.

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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