How to reach Chinese audience in Australia with WeChat

Are you interested in Marketing to Chinese consumers? Nolan Yu, a former PR ninja in Shanghai, now a media warrior in Sydney, writes this guest post about WeChat, the Chinese social platform that ‘rules them all’.

You might not use the WeChat, but I am sure you’ve heard about this Chinese instant messaging app, which The Economist has labelled the “one app to rule them all”. The 2017 WeChat User Report from Tencent revealed the average time spent in WeChat is now 66 minutes per day, creating little doubt that WeChat is the no.1 platform to reach the Chinese audience today.

Last year, The New York Times posted a video called How China is Changing Your Internet which perfectly demonstrated the mind-blowing functions WeChat can offer and how this app changed Chinese people’s day to day life. You can even order a meal in a restaurant that has no wait staff or menus.

Today in Australia, users can’t do all of those cool things on WeChat, because some functionality aren’t available outside of China. What functions can we use in Australia? How can we leverage those functions to reach the local Chinese community?

If you want to know the answer, please keep reading…

Why use WeChat?

Even though I have WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SnapChat on my phone, I rely on WeChat to stay in touch with my Chinese and some non-Chinese friends. In Australia, some Chinese SMB owners use the ‘group chat’ function to reach and directly communicate with customers, and in app functionality allows you to easily share and scan the group’s QR code to spread it among contacts to join the chat group.

As WeChat is called the “one app to rule them all”,  it refers to a features that at a minimum, can do whatever Facebook can offer, including ‘Page’ and ‘Timeline’. They call these functions ‘Moments’ in WeChat. This is where I maintain my loose relationships through that news feed and posting pictures, liking and commenting on others’ posts. ‘WeChat Moments Ads’ (sponsored posts) are available for advertisers, unfortunately, this tool hasn’t been rolled out to Australia yet to target Australian users. Advertisers can however, target Chinese users in China with this feature, and potentially those who are tourists.

The good news is the first-ever ‘Moments Ads’ was just launched in North America, so I reckon we don’t have to wait too long for it to arrive in Australia. I reckon it will open a new door for Australian marketers to reach local Chinese.


BMW Moments Advert

BMW’s Moments Advertisement

WeChat is also the main source of information for most Chinese, including myself, as I try to catch up with the latest trends in China while living in Sydney. For example, on my way to work, I read articles and reports from LinkedIn and The Business of Fashion (BoF) by simply subscribing to their official accounts (almost all major publishers and brands have their own accounts).

Nolan’s WeChat subscriptions.


I also follow some Chinese influencers such as one of China’s top fashion blogger, ‘gogoboi’. The latest post, sponsored by YSL, has exceeded 100,000+ views (the largest number can be shown in the post).


gogoboi’s post sponsored by YSL


The feature of the official account is not limited to just posting articles, as WeChat has opened their ecosystem to brands and developers. You can actually consider it as a web browser, where brands can plug in their online store, offer 24/7 customer service and enable chatbots to serve their official accounts. It means users don’t need to leave the app to make the transaction, which is powered by WeChat’s online payment platform, WeChat Wallet.

More and more Chinese businesses operating in Australia have started supporting WeChat Wallet (or their biggest rival, Alipay), where users can pay by scanning a QR code. There are three leading payment mPOS and POS systems in Australia that are enabling retailers and advertisers to connect to these Chinese payment systems – PayLinx, Dinpay and Royal Pay.


WeChat Wallet

WeChat Wallet


Australian Brands on WeChat

The recently released June 2017 Census data shows that there are over half a million Chinese-born residents in Australia with NSW being home to about half of this population. So you shouldn’t be surprised that there are publishers curating localised content for those Chinese residents.

Some Australian businesses like Westfield Australia, David Jones, and Qantas have their own official WeChat accounts to build brand awareness and manage customer loyalty.


David Jones' WeChat

David Jones’ Official WeChat Account


Local official accounts also mean opportunities for advertisers to target local audiences. Unfortunately, WeChat’s display advertising service is not yet available in Australia (it’s planned for Q4 of 2017). But just like how you work with Australian bloggers, you can directly contact those official account representatives to purchase banners built in their posts, or more easily, through IDENTITY Communications, the intelligent multicultural marketing agency.

WeChat Sponsored Posts

In addition, if you have a higher budget, you can also develop native content, or organise a brand sponsored event with those publishers. The challenge here is that there are not many local publishers with a strong subscriber base. Two major Sydney publishers are WeSydney and SydneyToday. 


Sydney Today's WeChat

Sydney Today’s WeChat Display Banners


QR Codes & HTML5 on WeChat

The last thing I want to mention are QR codes and HTML 5 campaigns. To be honest, I am surprised that I still haven’t seen any QR Code Outdoor campaigns or HTML 5 WeChat campaigns yet in Sydney, which I think could be an opportunity for Australian advertisers. WeChat html5 campaign


There is a code scanner embedded in ‘WeChat’, which is commonly used in Chinese OOH campaigns that include the QR code in their creative assets and message tag line as a call to action to drive a direct response. By scanning the Code, users can be directed to the campaign web page, or the brand’s WeChat official account. More importantly, Chinese audiences are familiar with this format, since they have formed this behaviour in China. So when you include the QR code in your campaign, your brand will create the opportunity for a direct communication channel with them.


‌Kindle OOH QR Code Campaign

‌Kindle OOH QR Code Campaign


QR Code WeChat Creative

QR Code WeChat Campaign at Metro Station in China


But it doesn’t mean you should simply include the QR code in every campaign and expect Chinese people scan it. Your content and the way you incorporate a QR code definitely needs to be interesting, engaging. It should offer a value exchange to give potential customers enough incentive to pull out their phones and scan the code.

Hope it helps, please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Credit: Main image from Business Insider all other images provided by Nolan Yu.