A critical innovation that has built Tencent up as the world’s fourth largest internet company is its ability to leverage WeChat as an innovation platform. As my blog co-author, David Wolf, clearly outlined in this April 2014 post innovation platforms are “technologies that serve as foundations that allow others to innovation”.
In China’s competitive social media space, WeChat is just such a innovation platform as it not only offers a first rate messaging features, but more importantly provides easy access to other valuable services. Five of these innovations are clearly outlined in this February 2014 Tech in Asia piece, but I would highlight two that will become increasingly important:
It’s a Marketing Platform…
Through subscription based accounts users can receive the latest marketing content from brands they follow. The beauty of WeChat is that the platform is not only open to major brands – sample 3M ad below – but also local or regional players – like the Shanghai-based Mexican Grill called Salubre. Much like Twitter or Facebook in the U.S., WeChat provides both large and small companies a social platform to connect directly with consumers.
No, It’s a Payments Platform…
WeChat also provides convenient access to a variety of financial services. The platform covers a wide variety of services from ordering a taxi (like Uber or Lyft) to learning about group buying discounts (similar to GroupOn). Such payment services are becoming more popular as indicated by the fact that the WeChat wallet was used over 40 million times during the 2014 Chinese New Year to exchange “lucky money”. These gifts are traditionally exchange through hand-delivered red envelopes filled with cash over the holiday, but WeChat enabled users to do so virtually.
It is Actually An Innovation Platform!
The reality is that marketing platforms – like Twitter and Facebook – and payment platforms – like Uber or GroupOn – are nothing new. However, Tencent’s key innovation is their ability to use WeChat as an innovation platform. Tencent has successfully integrated numerous platforms into a single app so that its 438 million users have an increased number of value added services they can access – without every leaving the app.
So What’s the Big Deal!?
In a future post it would be interesting to compare WeChat’s innovation platform to the portfolio of brands that Facebook has collected – including Instagram and Whatsapp. However, at the moment let’s just appreciation there is immense business value created by the WeChat innovation platform. The next post in this series will focus on specific tips for leveraging WeChat’s platform (or any social platform) to connect more deeply with your professional colleagues, especially if they are Chinese.