WeChat is on the move. After a successful landing in the US, the China-based social messaging and mobile wallet platform plans to establish its presence in Europe. The main focus of this expansion will be to attract European labels and retail brands to make the buying process more convenient and attractive to Chinese customers and tourists visiting Europe.
This expansion actually started in Italy November 2016 and has since brought on about 60 Italian companies to its platform. China’s favourite social app partnered with Italian company Digital Retex to help companies set up their brands on WeChat which means they can their products and services in the Chinese market without needing an operating license. The main focus of the Italy office was to develop marketing and advertising for fashion brands from Italy. Targeted ads is also a feature: Chinese consumers can receive notifications from labels they subscribe to on the app. Luxury labels Burberry and Chanel are already on board.
Now, the plan is to open an office in the UK, with France and Germany to follow in the future. At the Networking Lunch event held May 17, 2017 in Brussels, Andrea Ghizzoni, Director of WeChat Europe of Tencent, explained how the company is now focusing more on B2B and encouraging brands to sell their products on WeChat.
Ghizzoni told Bloomberg, “We needed to make a step closer in serving European brands.”
WeChat’s Italy office is situated in picturesque Milan
Fast facts: In China, WeChat Pay is a religion to both locals and foreigners alike, processing everything from regular shopping absolutely everywhere with any vendor, cab fare and DiDi (Chinese Uber) to food takeout. On the other hand, Europe is still comfortable using bank cards. However, there is potential- about two thirds of internet users in the EU shopped online in 2016, and the most popular type of goods and services purchased was clothes and sports goods (61 % of e-buyers), followed by travel and holiday accommodation (52 %).
In 2015, one out of five enterprises in the EU made electronic sales. The percentage of enterprises receiving orders over websites or via apps was considerably high for almost all member states, ranging from 72 % in Portugal to 95 % in Greece.
Is Europe ready to change a payment system they’ve been using since forever?
While there is competition where mobile/online transactions are concerned (with Alipay, PayPal, Amazon etc.), WeChat seems to be setting themselves apart in terms of strategy and objectives. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out, and if WeChat’s original objectives will change according to demand and/or unforeseen challenges.