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WeChat looking to ride short videos

By HE WEI in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-07 09:05
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WeChat, the popular messaging app of Tencent Holdings Ltd. [Photo/IC]

WeChat, the all-in-one messaging app with over 1 billion users, is doubling down on its indigenous short video platform, leveraging synergies across other functionalities within the WeChat ecosystem.

New efforts to beef up the presence of "Channels", which debuted only two years ago, include allowing tipping quality content curators backed by WeChat Pay, and funneling online traffic to one's short video account from its related Mini Program-a WeChat-based application consortium-according to company representatives at the 2022 WeChat Open Class Pro on Thursday.

"As a basic component of the WeChat ecosystem, Channels will be connected with a bevy of other sister functionalities so that all online traffic can be integrated and managed in the private domain," said Zhang Xiaochao, who is in charge of Channels during the annual fair in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, where WeChat is based.

For instance, the company has inserted short video accounts onto the display menu of WeChat Official Accounts, a text and image-dominated bulletin where the Chinese often turn to for a galaxy of information such as government notices, news and entertainment.

It also promised to further up the ante in livestreaming by offering traffic incentives to committed content creators, while allowing viewers to become loyal followers by joining a proprietary group using WeChat Work, a chat app designed for organizations.

Though a latecomer to the thriving short video arena, WeChat's Channels made a splash in the past few months by making major or breaking news available to viewers on the go and airing live concerts. A recent concert featuring Irish band Westlife garnered over 27 million views.

Zhang said the platform will prioritize supporting original videos featuring knowledge-sharing, lifestyle and information, and will offer rewards to over 10 million content creators so as to maximize the exposure of their work to a wider audience.

Apart from tipping, more online hosts stand to receive commissions from merchandise they endorse in their livestreaming sessions. Channels also pair up qualified content creators with brands, enabling video producers to monetize their cult followings thanks to major traffic.

Merchants can also bank on livestreaming via Channels to facilitate online transactions. Data from WeChat show that three quarters of purchases via Channels were made by female audiences, while the top categories of transactions included clothing, furnishings, foodstuffs, skincare and cosmetics.

"'Channels has vast potential for smaller merchants to attract and retain customers and close the loop from traffic to transaction, because it is based on a distribution mechanism of social connections derived from WeChat," said a report on Channels by domestic media tracking agency TopKlout.

The report identified information related to agricultural produce, consumption among seniors and location-based lifestyle information as having the greatest growth potential.

With the recent fall from grace of several leading online hosts such as Viya, livestreaming-based e-commerce is likely to become less transaction-focused and more interest or content-driven, thus giving a leg up to platforms that encourage such content, said Zheng Zhuoran, an independent digital marketing analyst.

These capabilities will likely materialize on the back of a string of digital infrastructure of WeChat. WeChat Pay said it will allocate 10 billion yuan ($1.57 billion) worth of subsidies in the coming three years to upgrade micro and small shops to digitize their payment and commercial operations.

In the past few years, bigger and medium-sized vendors have given away coupons worth nearly 22.9 billion yuan via WeChat Pay, the company said, which led to total consumption of 520 billion yuan.

Mini Program, an integrated app plaza within WeChat, was used by 450 million people on a daily basis last year, 32 percent higher than that of 2020. Payments redirected from mini programs also jumped 80 percent year-on-year.

In the catering sector, for instance, self-help ordered by WeChat's mini programs managed to save 20 percent of labor costs for restaurant owners, while repurchase rates stood three times that using the conventional offline model.

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