This week Facebook launched Message Requests, a replacement for the Other Inbox that lets users contact strangers using only their names. Like other recent updates such as a dedicated shopping feed, the feature testifies to Facebook’s ambition to replace traditional means of communication and commerce: who needs to search for a phone number when you can just type a person’s name?
However, while Facebook continues to roll out groundbreaking features, its messaging service has yet to rival the power of WeChat. The Chinese platform has created a vast ecosystem for everything from messaging to online shopping, taking advantage of the country’s thriving mobile commerce market. With 600 million users, it’s swiftly gaining on Facebook Messenger.
“WeChat is not only a mobile messaging platform…it’s an e-commerce platform, it’s Uber, it’s a loyalty program,” L2 co-founder and head of research Maureen Mullen told attendees at the recent Social Platforms briefing. “Most platforms in the West haven’t yet made the jump from messaging and publishing utility to providing a more comprehensive destination for consumers.”
Led by early adopters like McDonald’s and Nike, global brands have leapt to establish a WeChat presence. L’Oréal Paris lets followers earn loyalty points by participating in WeChat campaigns, while Burberry broadcasts live fashion shows. Even Luxury brands are getting in the game: Cartier followers can use the app to discover the brand’s Clé watch, pay for it with WeChat Wallet, and make an in-store reservation to complete the purchase.
However, global companies still lag behind local brands when it comes to taking advantage of WeChat’s capabilities. While engaging users on Facebook is about publishing compelling content, doing the same on WeChat requires going one step further to integrate content with commerce.
“Global brands approach WeChat like Twitter or Facebook, with a lot of content, but they’re weak around support for native payment. They haven’t been able to link content to commerce-oriented elements like local brands,” Mullen said.
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