Why WeChat Channels Is An Essential Platform For Western Brands In China


Emerging Communications


May 23, 2022

WeChat Channels is the latest feature unveiled by WeChat taking the China marketing world by storm. Designed for image and video-based content, within the first six months of launching, it gained an impressive 200 million daily active users.

So, what are WeChat Channels – and what does it mean for your Chinese social media strategy?

What are WeChat Channels?

WeChat Channels offer both short and long-form image and video content. At a surface level, it’s similar to platforms already used internationally and by Chinese social media users such as Douyin and TikTok. What sets it apart, however, is full integration within the powerful WeChat ecosystem.

WeChat Channels feature four unique video-based feeds based on a user’s followed accounts, friends’ liked content, trending videos and geo-localized content. It has the power to connect individual consumers, user-generated content and brands like never before.

And “social recommendations” account for over 50% of WeChat’s discoverability algorithm. Brands building a chain of social relationships (via Moments, Shares, Likes and Group Chat interactions… you name it!) are likely to do extremely well on WeChat Channels. It’s all about high-quality content that genuinely resonates with Chinese consumers.

With videos from official accounts no longer exclusively accessible by friends and followers, it’s opened a direct pathway to WeChat’s 1.2 billion (and growing) users.

How brands can benefit from WeChat Channels

If you’re looking for content marketing opportunities in China, this is a social media trend that can’t be ignored. Just a few of the benefits include:

  • Video reigns supreme: graphics and text are rapidly making way for video content, welcomed by users as a more direct, intuitive and time-saving content-form.
  • Commercial integrations: brands can link WeChat mini shops with WeChat Channels and official accounts, driving traffic and linking to your website or large shopping platforms with each post.
  • Livestreaming opportunities: as one of the most popular Chinese social media trends, WeChat Channels allows for easy livestreaming with added commerce tools.

To illustrate the astounding effectiveness of WeChat Channels for Western brands – consider the Irish pop group “Westlife”. Initially popular in the late-1990s, they broadcast a live concert (even performing one song in Chinese) for WeChat music fans in December 2021.

Watched by over 229 million viewers, the concert received more than 160 million likes. It kickstarted Westlife’s resurgence across China, supported by a “Q&A” session further enhancing direct communication with fans.

Livestreaming with WeChat Video: building brand awareness

No country in the world has a livestreaming culture as diverse and important as China. It features across almost all social media platforms, from Xiaohongshu to Bilibili, Weibo – and of course, WeChat Channels.

It’s an indispensable method of targeting Chinese Gen Z audiences, with market growth predicted to reach 4.9 trillion yuan by 2023. Livestreaming via WeChat Channels helps raise brand awareness, especially if content generates a social buzz with plenty of likes, comments and shares.

It also encourages direct interactions with Chinese consumers via “brand live broadcast rooms” and product displays. With WeChat’s distinctive social algorithms, livestreamed broadcasts appear to friends of active participants – building exposure and widening your circle of potential new followers.

As well as brand awareness, WeChat Channels allows brands to offer coupons, “red envelopes” or time-limited discounts during livestreams; accessible only to those in the live broadcast room.

WeChat Channels: A new market for luxury brands?

Luxury brands are rapidly recognizing the importance of WeChat Video Channels for attracting China’s young, high-net-worth audiences. Louis Vuitton was the first luxury brand to appear on the feature, with Burberry, Prada and Chanel following suit.

It’s a tactic clearly paying off…

The French fashion house Estée Lauder achieved over 600% increase in monthly sales (compared with the previous year) through their WeChat livestream room. Indeed, in one day alone the brand achieved over $219 million in sales just from livestreaming.

Of these sales, over $52 million came from a single influencer – demonstrating the importance of collaborating with the right livestreamers and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs).

With various events taking place during China’s 6.18 shopping bonanza, Estée Lauder leveraged WeChat Channels integrations across the entire WeChat ecosystem. They linked customers across WeChat Groups, WeCom Connections, Mini Programs and subscribers to the official Estée Lauder account.

Instead of spreading resources across multiple platforms and diverting audience attention, brands are capitalizing on the ability to consolidate their activities on a single social interface. With WeChat’s famed ability to drive conversions, it’s certainly a trend to watch incredibly closely.

If you’re getting to grips with Chinese social media trends, download our guide to understanding Chinese Gen Z and planning influencer campaigns. Whether you’re working with new features such as WeChat Channels, other social media platforms or collaborating with KOLs, understanding your audience’s motivations and aspirations is key to unlocking marketing opportunities in China.