The biggest social media platform in China, WeChat, has revealed it will be coming to the UK and other parts of Europe in the not too distant future. They will be opening up their ecommerce platform and payments services to European merchants to sell to shoppers in China.
They will begin with the UK with France and Germany to follow. WeChat currently operates in Europe only through an office in Milan. WeChat is owned by Tencent. The idea is to open up WeChat to European retail brands and hopefully remove some of the friction and bureaucracy encountered when trying to start operations in China in a more traditional way.
Andrea Ghizzoni, European director of Tencent said: “We are expanding to the UK next month with a plan to open up direct operations in other European countries next year.”
“Almost 95 per cent of global luxury brands are on WeChat now — in the UK, there is Burberry and Mulberry, in Italy, Valentino, Zegna, Prada, all the big brands. Two years ago, the number was 50 per cent and last year 75 per cent, so the growth has picked up recently.”
WeChat has 800m users and they are mostly in China. And the features of WeChat make it very much more of a utility than Western web users might expect. For instance, on top of the usual social platform and messaging functions, you can use it to book cabs and cinema tickets, as well as for music streaming and general shopping.
Ghizzoni says of WeChat’s scope and reach: “We manage roughly 1m transactions per minute within the platform. In Shenzhen, driving licenses are distributed directly through WeChat. It’s totally different from app or internet company in the western world.”
It’s an interesting development and a further opening and opportunity for UK sellers that we’ll be sure to write about more as details become available.