WeChat eCommerce Development: Intro to Accounts and Store Types (2024)

TMO GroupJune 7, 2024
WeChat eCommerce Development: Intro to Accounts and Store Types (2024)

A unique feature of Chinese eCommerce is its connection with social media. Therefore, opening a WeChat Store could enable businesses to successfully sell to Chinese consumers. This article will guide you through the basics of WeChat store setup. If you have missed any of our previous articles, check the related posts to the right.

Build a more unified user experience and leverage the latest shopping innovations for your WeChat Store with TMO's WeChat Development Services.

What is WeChat?

In 2011 Tencent released WeChat, which to foreigners is primarily known as a messaging app. However, it is better characterised as a superapp which has become the lifeline of 900 million daily users across China. Its functions have grown to include WeChat Pay (allowing users to pay their bills without leaving the app), order food and taxis, book appointments, purchase tickets, and much more.

By using unique social media applications, such as WeChat, companies can both sell and engage with their customers/followers on one overarching platform which is deeply embedded into everyday Chinese lives.

Why Sell on WeChat?

It is only natural that any brand would be interested in using a social platform with over 1.2 billion monthly active users. The app offers seemingly unlimited business opportunities, easy-to-share social attributes, and attracts more and more brands to the WeChat platform. WeChat eCommerce is becoming a key component of a brand’s multi-channel strategy.

Most importantly, opening a WeChat Store presents an excellent growth strategy. Brands that have yet to enter the public eye of Chinese consumers can strengthen their brand influence through social media. Without brand awareness, relying solely on a big platform for higher traffic will be of no use.

Additionally, WeChat eCommerce enables you to focus on a specific target group, better understand your customers, learn about their desires, and build long-term relationships.

Types of WeChat Official Accounts

WeChat Subscription Account

A WeChat subscription account allows you to send one push message per day to followers. However, you are less visible as subscription accounts are nested under the subscriptions folder.

WeChat Service Account

A WeChat service account appears as a friend in the chat section, making them extremely visible. Service accounts have additional features such as voice recognition and the ability to generate multiple QR codes. On the downside, you can only post four messages per month.

WeChat accounts

Source: GrizzlyPanda

WeChat Official Account Requirements

In order to open a WeChat Store you need a WeChat official account. What is more, you must couple your verified account to WeChat payment platforms in order to open an in-app store.

Not sure where to start? Check out TMO Group's China Digital Compliance Services for your business.

To put it simply, there are 3 options to create a WeChat official account:

1. Registering using your overseas business license (special application process). This process will take between 2 and 3 months and only companies from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, France, the U.K., the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia*, Germany*, Italy*, Vietnam*, Finland*, the UAE*, Indonesia*, Cambodia*, the Netherlands*, Philippines*, and Russia* can sign up. Where the countries with an asterisk must invest USD in WeChat advertising.

2. Apply for a Chinese business license First you must register as a foreign entity in China and open a public bank account linked to your business license. Having a Chinese WeChat official account will lead to greater functionality but it is a costly and time-consuming process.

3. Use a third-party license to create an official account. Via this option, your account will display your name, description, and logo. However, it will be linked to the legal entity which created the account. This is the quickest option to establish your WeChat official account, but Chinese consumers might be wary your account is not linked to the official coupled business license.

Types of WeChat Stores

"H5" Custom Development

H5 stores are custom-developed web pages designed to work within the WeChat environment. They offer extensive customization options and can provide a highly tailored shopping experience. These stores are often used for specific campaigns or to create unique brand experiences.

See how MannatechMannatech's legally-compliant China bonded cross-border model provides an optimized eCommerce experience on WeChat and across desktop, mobile, and tablet.TMO helped Mannatech offer an optimized eCommerce experience on WeChat and across desktop, mobile, and tablet, as well as integrated cross-border features.

WeChat Mini Programs

Launched in January 2017, WeChat Mini Programs are lightweight apps within WeChat that offer various functionalities. As of 2023, there are over 3.2 million mini-programs on WeChat. They provide a seamless user experience but do not allow you to acquire followers or send push notifications, which can limit exposure.

See Feidekai (Fitline)Feidekai's B2B2C “New Retail” eCommerce platform offers Store Management & Procurement for its dealers, and a Marketplace for end users in the Chinese market.how Feidekai built a custom WeChat Mini-Program Store with management and procurement solution for its dealer network, as well as a marketplace for end users, all while bridging online and offline retail operations.

WeChat H5 vs Mini Program Development: Which Option Suits You Best?

Choosing between an H5 store and a Mini Program depends on your business needs:

  • H5 stores offer more customization and are suitable for creating unique, campaign-specific experiences.
  • Mini Programs are better for integrating with the broader WeChat ecosystem and providing a consistent, app-like experience to users.

Opening up a WeChat store via a service account gives brands a lot of creative space to play and interact with their customers. Furthermore, customer behavioral data is easily accessible and shared with official account holders, creating a high potential for customer relationship management. Since mini-programs are effectively an apps inside another app, you will no longer have to download new apps, making it a strong alternative for H5 and mobile applications.

Being limited to the main app's ecosystem can also prove a disadvantage in some scenarios, however. When it comes to social sharing, PPC campaigns, and other activities outside the boundaries of the WeChat ecosystem, H5 can prove a better option for brands. This is one reason why many companies operating in China have both H5 stores and mini-programs for their brands. In addition, mini-programs are better suited for quick purchase journeys given how easily they can be opened and closed within a session.

WeChat Features for eCommerce Development

Having an eCommerce shop with H5 allows flexible design and layout. Additionally, these platforms often provide an improved navigation experience than linking your stand-alone website or third-party platform to your WeChat official account. Let's take a look at a WeChat H5 custom-developed store:

H5 WeChat shop

Through custom development, your H5 store can have built-in features to also enhance customer experience for WeChat users:

  • WeChat auto login and integrations
  • Custom user interface design
  • Multi-language stores and differing campaign stores
  • Optimised check-out system
  • SMS and WeChat transactional messaging
  • WeChat Pay integration

Secondly, let's take a look at the option of developing your mini-program. Mini programs are fairly similar to H5 eCommerce shops in terms of capabilities and strategy, however, some key strengths are:

  • Faster loading speed
  • Data can be stored within WeChat’s ecosystem
  • Possible to insert hyperlinks in the content of your WeChat Moments, allowing businesses to promote their brands even more within the platform

WeChat mini-program

As mini-programs are fully integrated within the WeChat ecosystem, loading time is optimized and the number of clicks between product and payment is faster. Moreover, mini-programs can be found in 7 different ways, whilst H5 eCommerce shops can be found in 4 ways. On the downside, the development time and cost of mini-programs might be slightly higher comparatively. Another disadvantage is the inability to run PPC campaigns linked to a website while using a WeChat mini program. Additionally, mini programs are only compatible with WeChat Pay, whereas H5 eCommerce platforms may support other options. Finally, mini-program creation relies on Tencent approval and therefore might require more paper- and administrative work.

Enhance your Multichannel eCommerce Strategy with TMO

A key to success within the China eCommerce ecosystem is being able to implement a multichannel eCommerce strategy that allows you to tap into the country's vast landscape that is online shopping. To successfully navigate the complexities of WeChat eCommerce, consider partnering with a full-service eCommerce agency like TMO. Explore our solutions for your project:

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