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The Wonderful World of WeChat & How to Use it For Your Business in Cambodia

Ever wanted to know more about WeChat and whether it is suitable for your business in Cambodia? This article looks into one of the powerful integrated communication apps from China.

By Christine Cheung & Tim Liu

WeChat has become an indispensable part of everyday life for Chinese consumers. Everyday, a whopping 1 Billion users are using it for communication, news, business, entertainment and payment. WeChat Pay and its rival Alipay has nearly transformed China into a cashless society. It’s one of the most powerful integrated communication apps available.


Using mini programs and official accounts you can book transportation or accommodation, buy products, recharge your phone, pay your utility bill and even make pre-orders in fully automated restaurants. It even allows you to interface and control other hardware such as picking your favourite track when your singing karaoke with friends through WeChat.


IT IS EVERYWHERE IN CHINA.


You’re thinking to yourself…I GET IT…WeChat is AMAZING! Now how is this applicable to my business in Cambodia? How do I attract more Chinese customers?


Well…unfortunately, in Cambodia the utility of WeChat is still in its infancy. Meaning, aside from WeChat Pay, Official Accounts and the core function of direct messaging much of the advanced features that I mentioned in the opening of this blog is not entirely available overseas yet or even if it is available, you probably need to learn Chinese, have a Chinese bank account or know people that have a Chinese background or understanding of the app to help you manage the platform.

Setting Up WeChat

Since WeChat’s gradual roll-out of WeChat Pay in South East Asian countries, Tencent the parent company of this app has been progressively implementing support for foreign businesses. You can register your account via this link.


There are three tiers of account types for WeChat:

  1. Subscription AccountsFree. Can only publish once a day with 1-6 articles at a time. More like a news feed.

  2. Service AccountsThe account, which most businesses will choose. Greater data accessibility of followers. With access to API designed for WeChat and push notification to followers.

  3. Enterprise AccountsNot Available for foreign companies outside of China.

Here is a breakdown of features and a comparison of Chinese Domestic Vs Foreign Business Registration.

As you can see although foreign companies are able to register official accounts some of the functionality is either not open or limited compared to China registered accounts. Hence, before registering and spending resources on this platform, you need to ask yourself as a business owner is this worth the time and how will it result in ROI.


Understanding Pros & Cons of WeChat Marketing in Cambodia.

We talked about in a previous article the need to make the purchasing process easier for the target market in order for them to have sufficient information in making informed purchase decisions. Whether it is creating printed signage/collateral in the language of your clientele or adopting payment systems and channels of communication that are specific in reaching the consumer group. WeChat could to some degree help you do this, but what are the pros and cons?

Pro: WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay allows Chinese customers to use their WeChat virtual wallet to make purchases overseas when they do not have enough cash on hand. This gives them greater incentive to spend as they do not experience the hassle of communication with a foreign money changer or face unreasonable exchange rate costs as the transaction is settled via the Bank of China spot rate with a 0.1% transaction fee from WeChat. The use of the QR code to settle payment further simplifies purchase. If your product is indeed alluring to Chinese clientele, this method makes it easy and safe.


‘Wing,’ well known for its domestic money transfer services that has been used by everyday Cambodians to send money is currently the official local partner for Wechat Pay. There are other payment gateway consolidation providers that allows cross platform payment, but they end up charging an additional percent fee on top of the WeChat Pay transaction fee.


Con: WeChat Pay & Others.

WeChat is not the only cashless payment platform in Cambodia. There’s Alipay, TrueMoney, ABA Bank, Pi-Pay and Huione Payment. One of the major problems that I see in Cambodia is that some of the businesses are trying to appease all these payment systems and therefore end up having multiple POS machines to accommodate for the different user groups utilising these apps. This at an operational management level can create chaos and delays during the checkout process. It would make sense to short-list these payment systems based on your user demographics in order to reduce check-out times.

What the official account screen looks like in WeChat

Pro: WeChat Official Account

Official accounts are essentially an official business channel, combined with customer inquiries management, booking systems and multimedia marketing capabilities. This allows business to access Chinese users and at the same time promote or create offerings that are uniquely for WeChat users. It also allows you to grow closed groups for community promotions, push notifications and keeping customers up to date about your establishment.


Con: WeChat Official Account

WeChat is a closed group communications application, with in-app contact to contact messaging. Because it is closed group it means users will need to either follow your official account in order see your updates or you would need to build your follower base from the beginning. This means that you would need promotional strategies offering incentives or discounts in exchange for following your official account.


The problem is this…WE’RE IN CAMBODIA AND THEY ARE IN CHINA.


How do you get clientele to follow your platform when they are probably going to visit Cambodia once? Why would they even follow your store when they have Taobao or can get the same products probably at a cheaper price in China? Since they live overseas how would they even know about your business?


Furthermore, since this medium of communication is primarily for clients from China or Chinese speaking, this means that you will need to generate content that is in Chinese on top of other marketing activities that you are doing in different languages. That’s a lot of cost, time and effort into building a follower base that might not even give you the same returns as marketing on Facebook.


The counter argument to all of this is that there is a Chinese speaking community in Cambodia, and of course there will be some reach from local WeChat marketing; but will it entice the ones that just got off the plane? You know the ones that you are working so hard to attract that will spend money at your establishment - Definitely not so.


The Bottom Line:

As it stand in Cambodia 2019, WeChat as a viable platform to attract Chinese clientele still needs a few years. Although cashless payment and official accounts help with reaching this market, there still needs to be a period of development and adoption. As WeChat’s functionality expands, and the number of local users grow, the capabilities of this exciting platform in the not so distant future is limitless.


In the meantime, the robust method to generate sales in Cambodia would still require printed collateral in the client's native language and a convenient payment system to ensure that your Chinese customers have a pleasant check-out experience.


However, nothing is more important than the service and quality of your core offering - That's what you should be focusing on.


Should you really want to invest in this platform and the have the budget to grow your follower base, CAMBC has the experience to provide the solution to ensure effective implementation of WeChat marketing strategies. Visit: www.cambc.asia to learn more about our services.


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