China messaging app WeChat has been a source of tension in China. Just today, the government announced a renewal of its crackdown on app accounts that “disseminate negative or harmful information to the public…hurting public interest,” according to a Reuters source close to the campaign. Most individual users should be free to continue their use, as the crackdown will focus on accounts that have the ability to “communicate widely and mobilize society.”
In addition to being a social tool for disseminating social and political thought among its 355 million users, WeChat has been a space for brands to communicate and cultivate their fan base. The platform recently launched Weigouwu, which offers in-app WeChat payments and integrates China Yelp equivalent Dianping.
47% of brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury – China are active on WeChat, but most are reluctant to experiment with the platform’s full capabilities. None of the prestige brand accounts promote links to third-party retailers. Chow Tai Fook is the only brand to connect to Weigouwu and just 6% link WeChat accounts to loyalty programs. Less than a third use geolocators to direct users to nearby stores and less than a fifth provide live chat.
A few brands are getting creative. Tommy Hilfiger launched a “Size Assistants” feature through WeChat to help followers identify the best fit. Montblanc provides a geo-local store locator and enables in-store reservations through WeChat. And Coach runs a weekly lottery to encourage repeat visits and attract new followers.
It will be interesting to see whether other brands will follow these leaders, and if future government crackdowns will dampen users’ enthusiasm for the platform.