Bryan Bay: Postcard from Malaysia

Bryan Bay.jpgBryan Bay (pictured) is Ogilvy Malaysia's social strategist and he discusses WeChat Pay and how it is expected to become more widely used in the months ahead. WeChat Pay is coming, are Brands ready for this?
WeChat is an app you will start hearing more and more of (if you are not using it already) in the next few years in Malaysia. And for one simple reason - it will probably be the biggest factor that leads Malaysia towards a cashless society. It's already completely transformed the commerce landscape in China, and it's our turn next.
With the recent announcement of WeChat Pay finally launching in Malaysia, my Social senses went crazy. Simply because, as a WeChat user, I am aware that the current app enjoyed by Malaysians is very limited in "features". We do not enjoy the same features as China. You see, WeChat is more than just a chatting app, it's a swiss army knife of useful apps that can help ease your day to day needs. It's your WhatsApp, your Facebook, your Twitter, your payment wallet and more. WeChat's success stems from its ability to attract and retain users, partly because it's a one-stop-shop that consumers can leverage to talk with friends, book appointments, make payments, order taxis, shop and more.
Enabling Malaysian users to use WeChat Pay to make mobile payments will spark usage of various activities from within the chat app. WeChat Brand Account, WeChat Store, WeChat ads, WeChat mini programs, the list goes on. So, what does this app mean to us marketers, and why should we care?
Malaysia is a big part of WeChat's Global expansion plan
WeChat already has 1 billion active monthly worldwide users, and 20 million of which come from Malaysia - that's a huge number for an app that has yet to release its full features in Malaysia.
As WeChat's domestic market nears saturation (roughly 83% of all smartphone users in China use WeChat), the future growth of the company will depend on international expansion, and Malaysia shares a lot of similarities with China in terms of human behaviour.
Not to mention that Malaysia will have the highest smartphone penetration rate within Southeast Asia (predicted to reach 76% by 2020). Mobile is the first point of internet connection for many users in Malaysia and targeting this market will benefit WeChat's global reach.
It's all about that Conversion
Now that you have a mobile payment system linked with a social networking app, your consumer journey's conversion gap can be compressed further! As marketers, we need to re-think how Brands sell online (or in this case - onapp).
To give you an example, Xiaomi sold 150,000 phones in less than 10 minutes in its WeChat-only flash sale back in 2013. Although it's not a local example, you get the picture of how people can now purchase your product instantly - and at scale.
Blurring the line further between online & offline
Remember a few years back when placing your QR code on print ads and POSM was popular in Malaysia? Well, now it's going to be even more popular and for good reason. Beyond just scanning the QR code to get consumers liking your social media page, imagine your printed banner closing a sale for you.
The dream of having a cashier-less store in Malaysia won't be too far off. It's already a reality in China. Once WeChat Pay reaches its potential in Malaysia, it won't be hard for Brands and Entrepreneurs to copy that model.    
More ad placements
Just like any social networking platform, WeChat will need to monetise. In China, ads will start appearing on WeChat's Moment feed (Like your sponsored ads on FB news feed), allowing people to 'like' and comment on the ads just like any other Moments post. So, it's going to be something you'll hear from your Media Agency pretty soon.
More than just creating a Brand Account
To start having your Brand exist in the WeChat world, you'll need a Brand Account and have your social agencies create content, community manage and all that typical social stuff. However, that's not all WeChat can do.
Back in 2017, WeChat introduced 'mini programs' (aka WeChat instant app), which are like an app within an app. WeChat instant apps are an evolution of its Brand Accounts, which allow for online shopping and a wide range of other services.
Don't bother with creating a separate app - imagine your mini program within your WeChat Brand Account helping your consumers complete their purchase faster and easier, without leaving the platform. Did I also mention that it is cheaper to develop a mini program than developing a whole new app? Think about the cost savings - you don't have to spend money convincing people to download your app before spending even more to convince them to actually buy stuff from it.
Early adopter advantage
It goes without saying, there is a big advantage for Brands to be the early adopters of this platform. At the very least, your Brands will get first dibs on the current 20 Million users of the platform, even before that number grows further.
But with Malaysia being the first country outside of China adopting these new added features, are agencies & brand teams ready for it?
WeChat will be another Social platform to master while we continue to find new and interesting ways to disrupt users on social platforms the West has blessed us with (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube & Twitter). Malaysia's Agencies (and brand teams) will need to grow knowledge faster than any country out there, as we are both blessed and cursed with social platforms of the east & west.
In conclusion, having another extra social platform is a good thing for brands that are ready for that change, however for brands who are not prepared for this potential proliferation, we foresee that it will be a nightmare playing catch up and losing the first mover opportunities.

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