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Social networking has transformed the way people interact and relate all over the world. Innovators have taken advantage of developments in information technology to create devices that make connectivity simple and effective. WeChat is a popular app with a large user base. It is a popular cross-platform mobile messaging service in China. In Chinese, it is known as Weixin. Tencent, the social media behemoth, created it. The Tencent team began working on it in October 2010 and it was first released in January 2011. (Kun and Duoyong 121). The software is available on a variety of platforms, including Blackberry, Symbian, iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android. It is available for free download. WeChat has several features that have made it be a dominant player in the telecommunications industry. On top of the standard features that are found in other messaging apps, it also has additional features that make it have a competitive advantage over its competitors in the industry. The features have made it very popular due to their many applications in everyday social interactions and e-commerce applications (Liu, Chen, and Wei 1006).

One of its features is the text-messaging ability. Like other messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Viber, it can allow one to send text messages to friends when there is an internet connection on a mobile device (Kontsevaia and Berger 38; Pun 9). Another feature is its video-call ability. Users on the app can make face-to-face video calls. The WeChat application allows a user to make video calls by pressing the “+” icon and selecting “video call” under the chat window. It is simple to use and shares this video-call feature with other many applications such as Skype.

Its other feature is the WeChat Shake. It is unique to WeChat and is one of the features that have contributed to its popularity especially in its core market of China. It works by a user shaking his or her phone and can contact other users who are shaking their phones locally or globally at the same time. It enables a user to gain new friends by making connections using the unique feature (Pun 9). To use it, one goes to the Discover tab and then taps the Shake button and then begins shaking the phone. If another user is shaking his or her phone at the same time, one receives a notification, and therefore they can start to chat.

Another special feature is Moments. It works like Facebook and Twitter and allows a user to post status updates and photos on the user profile. In addition, one can also share, comment and like other updates by friends in a similar fashion such as the way Facebook operates. The Moment feature has more privacy than Facebook because it allows a user to control which of his or her friends can see your comments and likes by using the visibility settings (Kun and Duoyong, p. 121). Therefore, the ability to offer control is its main advantage and selling point.

It is possible to play games on the integrated gaming platform that is one of the most defining features of WeChat. Since its parent company Tencent is one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, it leverages the expertise of Tencent to bring gain and retain its customers. On top of 2D, it also offers high-quality 3D experience to its clients. Users can download the apps from the app store and enhance the gaming experience by making use of the special features of WeChat to make the gaming have a more social experience.

Group chat is another feature that users experience in WeChat. It enables users to initiate a group chat and add other members. One does it by selecting the “start chat” button and then choosing friends to add to the group. In this way, it is similar to WhatsApp group chat platform. Currently, WeChat has an allowance of a maximum of 40 members that can belong to a group.

One of the most defining features of WeChat is its digital wallet platform called WeChat Pay. It outsmarted Alipay of Alibaba (Kontsevaia and Berger 38). Users have to link their debit and credit cards to their WeChat account to use the service. It is used for digital payments. It also allows one to receive payments from participating vendors. WeChat also permits the distribution of virtual red envelopes that enables users to send money to their contacts and groups as gifts.

Statistics on WeChat

WeChat has grown rapidly from its initial release in January 2011. Its core market is in China, although it has expanded to other geographical regions. Its great success is partly attributed to the huge Chinese population. The average monthly users have been growing every quarter. In the third quarter of 2016, the number of active monthly users using WeChat was 846 million. The number has increased from around 400 million users in January 2014. In comparison, WhatsApp had 1.2 billion monthly active users as at January 2017 (statista.com).

The primary market of WeChat is in China. Its Chinese market accounts for almost 90% of its total global client base (Kontsevaia and Berger 39). One reason for its small presence outside China is because some of its competitors had already established themselves in other countries. It also had less understanding of other markets. It is in contrast to WhatsApp, whose users are spread across the world and not just concentrated in one particular country.

WeChat has the youth as its main clients just like other social media tools. More men than women use it (Liu, Chen, and Wei 1002). By January 2015, the youth in the age bracket of 18-25 constitute the majority of its clients. It is followed by the age group 26-35. The least active users are the senior members of the society who are 60 years or older People in urban areas account for the majority of the customers at around 77% (Liu, Chen, and Wei 1002). The age distribution is almost similar to other similar platforms, reinforcing the idea that the youth are the primary users of social media.

Why WeChat is popular in China

Part of the reason for the popularity of the app in China is because its launch was there. The parent company Tencent understood the Chinese market and hence it was able to design it in a way that would meet the needs of its Chinese Clients. Tencent was already a brand name in China, and therefore by launching WeChat, it strived to reinforce its market position in technology and did not have significant problems in getting clients.

Another reason for its popularity is because of the many unique features that it enables its customers to experience. It is not only about messaging platform but offers other important additional experiences. They include the digital wallet WeChat Pay that has enhanced mobile money transactions (Kontsevaia and Berger 38). Other additional features are the Moments that have the added benefitof allowing for privacy. The shake feature is also popular with the Chinese. It also permits the creation of third-party apps.

In addition, the blocking of Facebook and Twitter in China have contributed to the growth of WeChat. In the absence of competition in the hugely populated country, it has continued to dominate the industry in the domestic market (Kontsevaia and Berger 38). Other competitors have not been able to pose a stiff challenge successfully.

The future of WeChat

The past of a company is a strong predictor of its future performance. Going by its ever increasing active monthly users and the popularity of its features, WeChat can expect to continue growing its client base in China (Kun and Duoyong 121). Its revenue is also most likely to rise due to its constant innovations. However, due to the dominance of other platforms such as WhatsApp, Uber, and Snapchat in countries outside China, one can predict that it is not likely to topple those giants in foreign markets. It is because its other forays into markets outside China have not been very successful.

Conclusion

The success of WeChat has been possible partly because of the massive population of its domestic market. It should continue with its innovative practices to meet the clients’ needs by conducting extensive market research for it to establish the changing trends and aligning the findings to the design of its products. It should do this in both China and other markets. As the technology industry continues to evolve, it is important for the company to improve on its current features. It can also add more features to maintain and grow its client base.

Works Cited

Liu, Chunnian., Chen, Tong., & Ying Wei. “Research of the Trait and Quality on Emergency

WeChat Platform Based on Service Framework and Quality Gap.” The Open Cybernetics & Systemics Journal, 2015, 9, 1002-1007.

Kontsevaia, Diana B., & Paul D. Berger. “Mobile Marketing in China: Can WeChat Turn Their

New Advertising Strategy into a Sustainable Advantage?” International Journal of Marketing Studies, 2016, 8(4), 37-43.

Kun, Wang., & Sun Duoyong. “Research on the WeChat Information Transmission Topology

Based on Social Network Analysis.” The Open Cybernetics & Systemics Journal, 2015, 9, 121-130.

Pun, Raymond. “WeChat in the library: promoting a new virtual reference service using a

 mobile app.” Library Hi Tech News, 2015, 32(6), 9-11.

Statista.com. “Number of monthly active WeChat users from 2nd quarter 2010 to 3rd quarter

2016 (in millions).” 2016. Web. Feb.6, 2017. https://www.statista.com/statistics/255778/number-of-active-wechat-messenger-accounts/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/255778/number-of-active-wechat-messenger-accounts/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/387658/wechat-china-user-age/

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