Updated: 2016-03-18 08:37
By Chen Yingqun and Su Qiang(China Daily Europe)
The emergence of WeChat has come on the back of growth of the mobile Internet. [Photo provided to China Daily]
"WeChat allows me to keep in close touch with my Chinese business partners. With suppliers sending photos and the app's convenient payment options, business can be initiated and completed through WeChat," says Tahir, who frequently visits Yiwu in Zhejiang province - a center for small commodities - and is aiming to become a businessman after graduation.
The eMarketer report says WeChat ranked among the top three messaging apps last year in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Malaysia. WeChat tends to be popular in countries with a sizeable Chinese population but has gone mainstream only in a handful of markets outside China, the report says. WhatsApp was listed among the top three messaging apps in 34 countries, and it ranked No 1 in 26 countries.
The report says that a popular chat app in one country may not even be on the radar in another. The qualities that make a chat app popular in a location - cultural nuances, country-specific features and app capabilities and word-of-mouth marketing - do not always translate to the global stage, which has made it difficult for some apps to expand beyond their home country or region.
"WeChat hasn't done much good strategic marketing overseas yet, but its strength is about making good products, so it will make a series of efforts to expand the market," Ren says.
Kirk at the China-British Business Council says WeChat is like 10 companies together, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. In developing countries, many companies may be able to work with WeChat, but in developed countries, people would probably prefer to have individual apps for different functions, rather than one comprehensive platform.
"The good thing about WeChat is that you have everything on one platform, but it could also be a bad thing for Tencent to go abroad. I think they will struggle in Europe and the US, because people like their individual apps and have a lot of choices. So they need to work out a way to be much more flexible and let other companies participate in the ecosystem. But there are similar markets in which people would like it very much, such as India and Mexico.
"WeChat has been mostly developed based on Chinese users' habits, and if they want to expand overseas, it has to be tailor-made for overseas users. But for companies or brands that want to come to China, they need this platform."
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