WeChat, the Chinese social platform owned by Tencent, currently ranks top amongst mobile app users in China. This is largely due to the wide range of services it offers – from quick payments and m-commerce to vacation and restaurant bookings and plenty more as well. This approach helps to ensure that users are kept engaged within the app itself – gaining access to what they need without having to go elsewhere.

The app now has a new search feature that may cement the whole ‘one-stop shop’ approach the company has taken. The feature directs users to search results within the app itself rather than from across the web. This has been dubbed a ‘walled garden’ approach and essentially helps to keep everything in-house.

The addition of the search function is likely to negatively impact on Baidu, China’s largest search engine. In fact, according to the Quartz business news website, Baidu has already reported a slowdown in its revenue growth in the last quarter of 2016. Baidu is also blocked by WeChat from indexing its app content, possibly giving WeChat even more of an edge in the search game.

Of course to successfully roll out search, WeChat must have access to lots of data to start with – which it does. WeChat has been around a while now (since 2011), is extremely popular and is a major publishing platform in its own right. It also has more than 900 million registered monthly users which it can track, and a substantial stake in the search engine Sogou.

What does this mean for advertisers?

It could be easy to dismiss WeChat as just another social media platform, but in China it is way more than that. In Australia, it’s unlikely that any of us would transact all our business in Facebook, for example. If we are seeking out information of any kind, most of us would probably use Google or another large search engine to find what we want.

In China however it’s quite different, in that there are plenty of users who barely venture beyond WeChat, using it more or less to run their daily lives. The new search feature may strengthen this phenomenon still further.

This is something that advertisers need to take heed of. It may be that businesses need to make adjustments to their strategies to ensure their ads and marketing campaigns get noticed in all the right places.  

WeChat advertising can be done through the Moments feature (a bit similar to Facebook’s newsfeed), cost-per-click, or banner ads. Marketers also use key opinion leaders to promote their brand, and other types of marketing campaigns.

Need some help understanding WeChat search?

If you are wondering how WeChat’s new feature might affect your advertising and digital marketing in China, get in contact with our bilingual team for assistance!

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