Opportunities for Brands to Use WeChat for Research

WeChat has done an incredible job of creating social media functions for mobile. Users across China (and increasingly across the globe) are using WeChat for a wide range of regular communications. Time of use per day, by the 225-335 million monthly active users (MAU), is growing swiftly as WeChat adds more features and functions. In China, the total number of hours spent per month on WeChat now exceeds Weibo by almost seven times.

Given that most users are never, ever separated from their mobile phones, WeChat users are truly “always on” and accessible anytime of day. They are using networking functions like one-to-one and group text messaging, photo sharing, voice messaging, and walkie-talkie. They are following brands through subscription, service accounts, and signing up for brand loyalty programs. And, they are using embedded e-commerce functions for shopping. It’s a powerful combination of functions and really exciting for brands looking to link social media (sharing and word of mouth) together with e-commerce sales.

While the promise for social commerce is immense, one of the most immediate opportunities with WeChat is for customer research and insights. Given the “always on” nature of WeChat, research, surveys, and focus groups can now become much more linked to context – Q&A at the right time, right place. A coffee company can ask consumers about expectations and experiences between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. when people are looking for a daily charge of caffeine. A soap company can connect with consumers first thing in the morning or in the evening when daily bathing rituals are in full swing.

Given the opportunity to ask questions across a wider range of times and places, brands can better understand unique habits and map out more clear “paths to purchase” with audience groups. It’s way more powerful than collecting a group of people on an average weeknight, in a non-descript meeting place …and then expecting them to answer about details from hours, days, or weeks before, in a setting so distant to the meeting space and time.

With WeChat, brands have the opportunity to conduct a lot of interesting research with audiences. There are three ways brands can do this right now with WeChat:

1. Creating a “group chat” to serve as a focus group where a moderator asks questions over a period of time. This could be done over an hour or a week, depending on the needs for context. Using the voice functions of WeChat, such as “Walkie Talkie,” the focus groups can take on the feel of a live, active conversation in a way that other online groups cannot.

2. Using location-based opportunities to ask point blank questions about a service, environment, brand, or product. This can be done by setting up QR codes at a store or on the labelling of a product to get feedback. It’s a great tool for doing trials/sampling and as part of a regular customer service review process.

3. Creating surveys and polls distributed to participants one by one (for quantitative results). This requires a more intense effort online to build a panel or respondents but worthwhile if regular insights are important for a brand.

The best part of this is that research done through WeChat with groups has the potential to bring product development and market planning closer together with loyalty. Product trials can quickly go from being tested with a target consumer, to having those consumers being committed advocates for the product. In much the same way as Kickstarter enrolls early adopters and they become a powerful marketing force, WeChat focus groups could help to take seed participants and turn them into passionate advocates.

With social media moving more and more into the center of marketing strategy, loyalty and CRM become the keys to unlocking both awareness and acquisition performance. Consulting with audiences is a good way to put loyalty first and inspire more powerful word of mouth.

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