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FEATURE STORY: Top 3 Reasons Why WeChat Failed To Make A Global Impact
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Top 3 Reasons Why WeChat Failed To Make A Global Impact

BT 201710 Feature story 01      微信WeChat是目前每个中国人都离不开的日常手机应用工具,其功能强大,发送信息便捷,使得微信占据了几乎所有的华人市场。微信目前有18种语言版本,已经在印度、印度尼西亚、马来西亚、新加坡、菲律宾、墨西哥和南非等国家成功推出,最近还在欧洲发展。但即使在腾讯的初步营销推动下,WeChat目前在中国以外的业绩基本上限制在新加坡、台湾和马来西亚的华人人口。那么微信为何无法在欧美打开市场与其他社交媒体软件分庭抗礼呢?原因主要有三点。

      社交绝非新兴行业,海外对手有强大的先发优势。这一市场并不是一个新的蓝海市场,所以在微信出现之前,欧美已经有了Facebook以及Whatsapp等软件进入人们的日常生活,如果你要联系一个朋友,肯定会用人们已经拥有的社交软件,而不是下载一个新的手机应用。

      另外欧美用户不可以直接从应用程序中分享其他社交软件的视频图像等信息。一些很好的功能,也仅限于中国客户使用,导致了部分欧美客户的流失。类似的本土化工作不到位也使得微信失去了不少用户。


      最后,也是一个至关重要的原因是微信并没有给欧美用户使用它的理由。同等条件下,微信在国内具有的订购、打车、支付等功能,但遗憾的是在国外并不具备。人们可能会问“我为什么要用微信”?

微信的国际化道路尚待改进,“路漫漫其修远兮”,微信团队还需要继续努力。

BT 201710 Feature story 03WeChat, locally known as Weixin, has occupied every touch point of an average Chinese person’s mundane life. While the mind-boggling multitasking ability of WeChat from effortlessly scheduling a doctor’s appointment to ordering pizza or booking a cab makes it a must-own one-stop-solution for Chinese consumers, the ambitious messaging app seems to have been failing to spread its wings outside China. Despite efforts made by its parent company Tencent in targeting international markets and pouring money into starry campaigns via sports celeb like Lionel Messi, WeChat is still unable to shrug off the second-fiddle status to Facebook’s social networking apps.
 

Eyeing the international market and fighting alongside other messaging applications, WeChat is currently available in eighteen languages and has been successfully launched in countries like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Mexico and South Africa and quite recently in European territories. But even after Tencent’s initial marketing push, WeChat’s current performance outside China is largely restrained to a Chinese speaking population in Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia where the normal online search volume of WeChat is forty times more than it is in India.
 

But what are the factors that are holding back WeChat’s overseas expansion plans when the brand holds immense potential to be popular internationally? Let us dig a little deeper in order to get some insights on market-specific reasons that are disrupting the international success of Chinese brands like WeChat.
 

1. Late Bloomer

BT 201710 Feature story 04It is not a coincidence but a mistake that some Chinese companies make while hitting the international platform - they are late to the party! WeChat went global in 2012 or even later when all its contemporaries had established a strong foothold in the market. Tencent even tried to make up for that lost time with star-studded, exorbitant marketing campaigns but traditional marketing has never really worked well for chat apps. Word of mouth has a greater impact in promoting such products. At the end of the day, it is easier for a group of friends or like-minded people to stay connected using the same app instead of different mechanisms.
 

Eventually, you will use the same app as your friends do and in the same way. If your friends do not use a certain chat app, you will probably never use it regardless of many hot shot celeb ads you see. Just when WeChat was launched globally, the chat app market was already dominated by either Blackberry Messenger or WhatsApp, varying from region to region. But WeChat did not realize the core issue which remained constant over the years: lack of a two-pronged strategy that focuses on addressing users both on an individual and unified level.
 

2. Lack of Localisation

BT 201710 Feature story 06WeChat is undoubtedly a winner in China, thanks to the decade old data Tencent garnered about China’s market demonstrating the mobile habits of local people that gave the company a strong hold over the mobile business. Tencent just knew better than any other brand what its Chinese user base wanted from a chat app and it was successfully delivered to them. Slowly, WeChat morphed itself from a fun social media tool into an all-rounder utility hub becoming the part and parcel of urban Chinese lifestyle. But WeChat has not shown the same level of attention in adapting its set-up for global markets. Surprisingly, the global WeChat app does not feature anything like its Chinese counterpart. To top off, there is another failure - the application when introduced globally was not even seriously tweaked to meet the user’s needs of the local markets in which it was launched.

BT 201710 Feature story 08For instance- WeChat in America does not allow users to share any content (like an emoji, picture or video) on any other social networks directly from the app. Either you can share it with other WeChat users or simply add the same to your favorites. That is pretty much it that the global WeChat app offers. Another feature that WeChat offers fails miserably in other parts of the world is their sticker pack downloads. The app allows users to buy and download stickers to spice up conversations but surprisingly this special feature is only tailored towards Chinese users. If you look up for stickers typing region-specific festivals or events, you will only end up getting the short end of the stick, which is absolutely nothing.
 

3. China-Comes-First Approach

BT 201710 Feature story 07WeChat’s third mistake was that it did not offer any significant reason to its global users to switch from the chat apps that they were already using. Tencent stirred clear of this mistake in China. It was an easy game for WeChat during its early days to focus on creating innovative app features as its only rival was another Tencent app called QQ.
 

WeChat was primarily made for mobile users and Tencent swiftly transformed this simple messaging app into a 360-degree mobile utility that enabled Chinese users to juggle multiple tasks at the same time, from ordering pizza, paying bills to enjoying their favorite games. But while Tencent spoke about keeping things equal for its international audiences, the same features were either introduced years later or did not come at all.
 

Even in mid-2017, the global version of WeChat is just a pale shell of what is already available in the Chinese market. No ordering of food or booking a cab or controlling bill payments through the app which just makes the global version of WeChat stripped-for-parts of the Chinese original.
 

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