WeChat: you benefit. Social media on the other side of the Great Firewall
With over 700 million active monthly users, and a remarkably positive growth trajectory, WeChat is rapidly becoming ingrained in the fabric of Chinese business.
Australians should look to embrace the opportunities flowing from the injections of foreign capital into our national economy. Chinese investment into Australia grew more than twice as strongly as the global trend in 2015 and if you’re looking to grab a piece of the pie, WeChat is an absolute must-have.
If you’re unfamiliar with the platform, think ‘instant messenger homepage’ meets’ accessible newsfeed and video calling’ – and easy enough for nanna to use. Throw in smooth voice messaging, QR code scanning and an impressive inbuilt translation system and you’re starting to get an idea of just how versatile WeChat is.
Twelve months living in Hangzhou, China’s ecommerce capital, opened my eyes to the enormous capacity of China’s smartphone lifestyle. I watched as my many communication platforms were rolled into one. Business contacts, university classes, social occasions and everyday activities streamlined under one finger; and it was good. WeChat is your phone, news feed, messenger and camera. Your menu, your wallet and ride home. It’s your movie ticket, Opal Card and ID; it’s everything.
Back on Australian soil it became clear to me that our early arrival as a developed nation did not reflect us embracing the digital age. We’re romantic about print media, like using cash, and show reluctance to change. The Chinese do not. Their transition to digital commerce has been swift and all-consuming. So much so that in China, card based transactions border on obsolete.
This all starts to become much more important once placed in the context of forging relationships with Chinese businesses. Keep the business cards on hand too, making sure you present and receive them with two hands, but inevitably the question will be asked: “Do you have WeChat?”
The appropriate response is a firm “Yes”. It will make communication easy, instantaneous and effortlessly workable internationally when the need arises. You’ll also look prepared. The Chinese businessperson is a no-nonsense character and providing them with the immediacy of a WeChat connection is the easiest step towards shaping a profitable, sustainable relationship.
What was once a gentle undertow of the Australian economy is now an inescapable current. Chinese businesses are injecting increasing amounts into the nation’s health, infrastructure, agribusiness and resource landscapes. The government’s two-pronged push towards China via the Free Trade Agreement and regulatory changes to the Foreign Investment Review Board are an indication that they are serious about nurturing this important bilateral economic relationship.
China is changing more than just who Australia does business with, they are changing how we do it. WeChat is technology’s reflection of this. It cuts the fluff and provides all the tools to get the job done. If Facebook, Instagram or anything Google-made were usable on the other side of The Great Firewall maybe things would be different, but they’re not. And with WhatsApp’s recent announcement about implementing end-to-end encryption, their chances of retaining unfettered capabilities in China are looking shakier than ever.
Australian businesses are slowly coming around, realising one at a time that a simple gesture of downloading an app will put them that much further in front of the pack.
KPMG’s WeChat subscription communicates one or two key Sino-Australian insights each and every week. It’s more than worth a look if you can read Mandarin, but more realistically for most, it’s a great direction in which to point Chinese clients. A readily accessible place to engage with Australia’s economic conversation,
this QR code will lead you straight there.
There’s plenty of English-language resources too, abundant in information from and about China.
WeChat is your easiest gateway to engaging with the Chinese market. It’s time you jumped straight in.