Culture . Learning . People
Intercultural and Chinese culture specialists.

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Know about WeChat

If you are working with Chinese partners, colleagues or customers you need to know about the superapp WeChat, or Weixin as it is known back in China. Created by tech giant Tencent, WeChat now has a billion monthly users (that includes me by the way) and this means it  is close on the heels of WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion users (BBC, 2018). WeChat has succeeded for many reasons but a key factor has been  its ability to harvest what is working well from other apps and then to integrate these into one digital hub.

According to the Economist in 2016 a third of all mobile internet usage in mainland China occurred via WeChat and the average subscriber will use the superapp ten times a day.

Here are ten examples of how someone could use WeChat in a day should they so wish:

  1. Book a doctor’s appointment.
  2. Pay a utilities bill
  3. Order a taxi
  4. Group chat at work.
  5. Send a file to a colleague
  6. Communicate with your toddler remotely via Mon Mon, a WeChat toy which looks like a cute pinkish dinosaur, and can send and receive voice messages
  7. Exchange contact details by shaking your phone with another WeChat user instead of swapping business cards or texting the details.
  8. See what other WeChat users are in your current vicinity
  9. Check your bank
  10. Order some food

So, yes, it is a bit more than just a messaging app and it’s used widely at work as well as in people’s personal lives.

China has accessed technological developments at different times to the West and as a result its consumers have adopted different digital communication habits. They have jumped from communicating without the web to using the web through a mobile, without the dominant use of personal computers as has happened in the UK and many other Western countries. So if you have been wondering why your Chinese contacts don’t respond that quickly to email you may now have part of the answer!

In March this year Forbes reported that in 2015 Chinese people made more payments by mobile than by computer. The US would not do this for another six years (Forbes, 2018). It would appear that Chinese consumers are less entrenched in prior forms of on-line payment.

WeChat has also managed to incorporate aspects of Chinese culture in its offering. For example, they have digitalised the tradition of giving red packages, or hongbao. At the last Chinese new year more than 10 times the population of the UK sent or received these e-hongbao! (BBC, 2018).

You may not want to open an account, though it is super simple for individuals (I am no digital native but it only took 5 mins) but it is a force to be understood and appreciated.