Singles' Day Cover

What’s WeChat’s role in the 11/11 shopping festival?

Stefan Kingham

It’s that time of the year again ladies and gentleman, records are set to be broken and people all over the country are readying themselves to consume for the sake of consuming.
Yes you guessed it, Singles’ day is around the corner and how could you possibly not know about it?

From posters in subway stations to repeated ads on elevator screens (Don’t tell me you haven’t heard the Jingdong jingle!) and everything in between, China’s e-commerce giants are leaving nothing to luck as they plan ahead and build momentum ahead of the biggest online shopping day of the year.

What used to be a day for singles to celebrate and socialize before becoming Alibaba’s yearly shopping bonanza is now the world’s largest e-shopping day and everyone wants their share of the pie.

Alibaba is ahead of the pack, even more so now that they’ve formed a joint venture with Suning, but other eTailers such as JD.com will be eager to show they have enough tricks up their sleeves to stay within touching distance of Alibaba.

Tencent’s decision to buy a 15% stake in JD.com in 2014 certainly spiced things up and there’s no doubt the strategic partnership they have formed is a genuine threat for Alibaba’s future development.

With Tencent looking to loosen Alibaba’s grip on the e-commerce market and Singles’ day in particular, using JD.com as its main weapon, what’s Tencent-owned WeChat’s role before and during Singles’ Day?
 

WeChat is a communication tool for 11/11

 
As you know, most (if not all) brands targeting Chinese consumers create official WeChat accounts through which they share news related to their services or products.

It will therefore come as no surprise to you that in regards to Singles’ day, WeChat is primarily a communication tool on which brands can promote their 11/11 deals, like the Adidas deal underneath.
 
Adidas Promotion 11/11
 
While some brands engage in aggressive pre-sales techniques, driving users’ attention and building expectation through posts promoting their upcoming discounts, others prefer to get active on social media during the actual discount period at which they point they use WeChat as a means to offer coupons or drive users to their online stores.
(Image below: Uniqlo coupon on their WeChat account)
 
Uniqlo Singles' Day Coupon
 
Interestingly, brands aren’t the only ones who treat WeChat as an 11/11 communication platform as e-commerce companies themselves have recognized the need to be part of the WeChat ecosystem.

As you can imagine, Tencent clearly favor JD.com (more information about this in the 3rd section), but that hasn’t stopped other e-commerce competitors such as Tmall from communicating their deals on WeChat, albeit with constraints.
 
Tmall Singles' Day Promo
 
When used as a promotional platform, WeChat is no less than a gateway to online stores, a platform on which brands can attract new consumers, drive their interest and lead them to the conversion funnel.
 

WeChat is a sales platform during 11/11

 
The conversion funnels those promotional WeChat posts lead to aren’t necessarily external, and in some cases, the conversion itself is done within the WeChat app.

Let’s take WeChat stores for instance.

WeChat-based CRM solution Weimob recently created a Singles’ day promotion page on which they displayed the best 11/11 deals from the WeChat stores that use their tool.
 
Weimob Singles' Day Promo
 
Users can browse through the different discounts on show and make a purchase without leaving the WeChat app.
 
Weimob Singles' Day Payment
 
This is a great example of how WeChat can be used as a communication tool AS WELL AS a sales platform with regards to 11/11.

WeChat stores aren’t the only channel through which consumers can purchase 11/11 discounted products within the WeChat app, and that’s where Tencent and JD.com’s strategic partnership comes in.

As part of their partnership, JD.com is directly accessible within the WeChat app and brands can therefore create promotional posts that direct users to the conversion funnel on JD.com, without them having to leave the app.

The image below is an example of this. Lenovo recently published a post on WeChat regarding their 11/11 deals and interested users can click on the accompanying link to be directed to Lenovo’s JD.com store within the WeChat app.
 
Lenovo Singles' Day Promo + Payment
 
JD.com themselves also use WeChat as a communication & sales platform and regularly share discount news that users can act on within the app.
 
JD Promo + Payment
 

WeChat has its own interests during 11/11

 
Since WeChat is owned by Tencent and Tencent are looking to derail Alibaba’s 11/11 success, there’s no doubt that WeChat has its own agenda. In this specific context, Tencent seem to be leveraging WeChat to increase sales on JD.com.

Due to the fact that WeChat have always focused on providing a non-disruptive user-experience, you’ll probably never see JD.com ads within your moments and the JD.com app within WeChat is relatively unpromoted. But that doesn’t mean WeChat isn’t backing JD.com.

WeChat have blocked access to all Tmall & Taobao links meaning that if a brand links to their Tmall store and a user clicks on that link, they won’t be able to connect to the page unless they copy the link and paste it within another web browser.

This also means that whereas JD.com’s official WeChat account promotes 11/11 deals and directs users to the JD.com store within the WeChat app, Tmall’s WeChat account is nothing more than a platform on which they can communicate news.

That said, confident that users will copy-paste the link into another browser, that hasn’t stopped them from linking to their store.
 

So what is WeChat’s actual role during 11/11?

 
So coming back to the main question, what is the role of WeChat with regards to Singles’ day?

For most brands, especially brands that are too big for a WeChat store, WeChat is primarily a communication platform on which they can attract interest and get the word out regarding their upcoming and current promotions.

But ever since Tencent took a share in JD.com, things have started to evolve. Due to the fact that JD.com is directly accessible within the WeChat app, brands can drive their consumers straight to the conversion funnel without them having to leave the app.

This means that whereas WeChat used to solely serve as a sales platform for WeChat stores, it now serves the same purpose for JD.com stores promoted within WeChat.

So rather than state that WeChat is a communication tool or a sales platform, I think it’s fair to say it’s a hybrid of the two.

The fact that WeChat is becoming increasingly involved in JD.com’s activities is cool and all, but there has to be a reason behind it.
As mentioned before, it would seem that Tencent are leveraging WeChat to increase sales on JD.com.
 

Have Tencent managed to leverage WeChat to increase sales on JD.com?

 
When compared to figures from 2014, the number of orders JD.com received on Singles’ Day 2015 increased by 130%, from 14 million orders in 2014 to 32 million in 2015.

Furthermore, 75% of the orders they received on Singles’ day 2015 were made on mobile.

There’s no proof to back it up, but this could be thanks to WeChat right?

But before you get carried away and start thinking that WeChat will enable JD.com to exceed Alibaba, think again.
Alibaba generated $14.3 billion in sales on Singles’ day 2015 (a 54% increase on the $9.3 billion they made in 2014) and as of Q2 2016, Tmall’s share of the Chinese online B2C market is more than double that of JD.com. (54,5% for Tmall, 26,3% for JD.com).

Despite this, JD.com can definitely take encouragement from the increase recorded in 2015 and WeChat’s ongoing support can only help them going forward. In actual fact, it would seem that WeChat might already be having a positive impact on their results.

Sure, Tmall’s share was double that of JD.com in Q2 2016, but JD’s share of the B2C market has actually increased from 23,2% in Q3 2015 to 26,3% in Q2 2016 while Tmall’s share has remained the same.

Could this be the beginning of JD’s uprising or will Alibaba run away with it again this year? Excited about the 11th yet?

Stefan Kingham
Stefan Kingham

Stefan is originally from the UK and holds a degree in international business. He's been working in digital marketing for almost 3 years and loves to motivate, create, innovate (and any other word ending in "ate"). Before joining Sekkei Studio, Stefan worked at a medical startup in Berlin, several record labels in London and Reykjavik and a social media agency in Beijing. When he's not reaching out for backlinks, Stefan likes to code, sing in the shower, and support his beloved AFC.

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1 Comment

  1. It’s fair to say that Singles’ Day, the Chinese Black Friday/Cyber Monday, may be the actual future of retailing. The Chinese embrace technology, love ecommerce and love spending. Fully embracing virtual and augmented reality, China is already at least one digital step ahead. https://webinterpret.com/us/blog/china-singles-day-global-ecommerce/

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