WeChat leads the way for mobile luxury in Asia
Earlier this year WeChat announced their performance figures for Q1 of 2017. The results were impressive, with the social network posting a whopping 889 million monthly active users. The social network has gone from strength to strength in recent years, continually innovating with new features to promote deeper engagement with their users. For the luxury sector, WeChat’s recent performance figures will have turned some heads in the digital departments (especially after a 2016 Bain & Company survey found that around 60% of users identify the platform as their online source for information on luxury goods). WeChat in 2017 looks ripe for luxury brands, both in terms of marketing and sales potential. There aren’t many Western social media platforms that provide both a marketing and sales channel in one – so how is WeChat different, and why is this year relevant to luxury brands?
Luxury fashion brands are already familiar with WeChat. Burberry has been using the platform to connect with Chinese consumers since 2014, broadcasting the AW14 Womenswear show to WeChat users who were able to unlock exclusive content and personalise pieces from the collection. At the time, Christopher Bailey commented that “WeChat opens up a huge new world of opportunity in the digital space”, allowing the brand to present their story in a “deeper and more meaningful way”.
Last year, over 10% of WeChat Pay users were spending over 5000RMB (£550) per month on the platform.
US luxury brand Coach are another brand to have run marketing campaigns on the platform, including their #MyFirstCoach campaign and a loyalty scheme for Chinese consumers. Chanel have an account too, using the platform mostly for content marketing, and Mulberry have also invested in the platform with the help of Hot Pot Digital, a digital agency which specialises in marketing to China.
So if brands are already familiar with the platform, why should they be even more interested in 2017? Well, deeper and more meaningful connections with consumers are great, but some of those campaigns are a few years old now. While the marketing potential on WeChat is great, it’s another part of WeChat that represents a big opportunity for brands: WeChat Pay.
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WeChat Pay is WeChat’s mobile payments service – a platform boasting over 600 million users – and one which has seen huge increases in per capita spending over the past 12 months. The ability (and willingness from consumers) to spend money through the app has created a perfect storm for luxury fashion.
Mobile payments in China are currently booming. Last year, digital payments through WeChat Pay hit $1.2 trillion (yes, trillion) – a huge increase from the relatively meagre $11.2 billion spent on the platform 5 years ago. The amounts being sent over WeChat Pay are increasing year on year, with around 10% of WeChat Pay users (around 50-60 million people) spending over 5000RMB (£550) on the platform per month. This represents a thriving ecosystem for luxury brands looking to enhance their digital presence; WeChat is a platform which is trusted as a source of luxury news, with an audience that are evermore willing to spend large amounts of money via their mobile phone. In fact, between WeChat Pay and Alibaba’s competitor AliPay, Chinese consumers sent over $3T through mobile payments in 2016. That’s nearly 50 times more than US consumers spent via mobile payments.
With the region bouncing back after the recent slowdown, both Gucci and Louis Vuitton have opened new digital channels in China. Gucci, who previously ran an online store on Alibaba’s Tmall, launched a brand new website for Chinese consumers this July, with Louis Vuitton following suit a few weeks later. The Louis Vuitton store (which accepts both AliPay and WeChat Pay) is available in 12 cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as more regional cities such as Dalian, Haerbin and Wuham. This focus on tier-2 and tier-3 cities indicates a long term investment from Louis Vuitton, as a recent report by Morgan Stanley identified these cities as the driving force behind a predicted Chinese consumption growth from its present levels of $4.4 trillion to $9.7 trillion in 2030.
It won’t just be brands keeping an eye on WeChat but retailers and developers too. With a big increase in digital from most brands – whether that’s in social or setting up e-commerce stores – the digital market place is hotting up. Any lessons that can be learnt from WeChat should prove valuable as brands continue to experiment with accessing new customers through digital.