The Hidden Power of WeChat Social CRM: What You Need To Know

Content is no longer king on WeChat. As WeChat evolves, and more content creators join the platform, users are becoming more and more selective on what they read. Since November 2015, the “open rate” on WeChat articles has decreased from an already low 17 percent to 6 percent, according to data gathered by social media management platform KAWO. In our previous interviews with WeChat users, they’ve often complained: “It’s hard to search for content on WeChat.” or “Instead of reading long-form articles on WeChat, people spend more time watching videos.” Given the ever-changing habits of users, it’s inevitable for brands to adjust their strategy as needed — instead of using WeChat as a broadcasting tool to raise mass awareness, brands are now positioning it more as a one-on-one service tool.

And many have done so already. We saw YSL Beauty build an Instagram-like sharing Mini Program, Dior sells e-gift cards, and Maybelline launch a customer service program on their WeChat account, etc. Through each, brands are not only offering some form of service, but more importantly, gaining valuable insights about their subscribers through social Customer Relationship Management (sCRM). Shanghai-based digital agency firm 31Ten recently published a report offering brands a hands-on guide on how to best navigate sCRM. Here’s a brief summation:

On WeChat, how much data a brand can collect about their subscribers is quite limited. In fact, the only thing that’s visible is the user’s name (which most cases are not their real names) and sometimes their location. This can be frustrating for brands, not knowing who is following their WeChat feed, and a missed opportunity to convert them into potential customers.

With sCRM, the system tracks each subscriber with a unique ID, and monitors each and every interaction with the brand.

The above screenshot from the American retailer Coach is an example of basic sCRM. Every customer who subscribes to the account will be greeted with a welcome message asking them to bind their WeChat account with their name phone number, and gender to become a member. In other cases, brands can also use the chatbox to fulfill this goal (see below).

Once this information has been collected, brands can send tailored messages by gender, location, and even their relationship status. For example, the German fashion brand MCM utilized the power of sCRM for their pop-up shop in China. To identify the subscribers who might be interested in attending, the brand looked at their user’s WeChat activities — clicks on articles from official WeChat accounts, their activity on Mini Programs, as well as transactions on WeChat e-commerce. After the event, MCM targeted its VIP customers that had attended the pop-up, and invited them to a “VVIP” event, where they could enjoy an enhanced coffee-making experience. The result of this multi-layered, targeted campaign, which brought followers from online to offline, was a deeper relationship with them — far beyond the digital world of WeChat.

Although the process looks straightforward, in practice, there can be many hurdles. “The challenge of sCRM is to come up with a unique digital strategy that translates the brand, its values, and personality into a data-driven engagement: a signature customer experience,” says Vlad Alukhanov, a WeChat and CRM brand strategy consultant. “For most brands, an off-the-shelf solution simply won’t do the job.” So luxury brands who wish to control and preserve their brand equity, assigning an in-house person might be more helpful than outsourcing it to an agency (the report discussed the pros and cons of both).

Additionally, Thomas Portolano, digital lead Asia Pacific at Christie’s warns brand to do some serious soul searching before diving all in. “How does WeChat make a difference for your business? If you’re not sure, segmenting users and delivering personalization isn’t going to make a business.”

sCRM or not, for any brand wishing to add WeChat into their digital strategy in China, the benchmark has clearly changed — from page views and click rates to the quality of interactions with each subscriber, because regardless of the platform they are on, the goal is always to know your customers.

Read more on about a list of recommended sCRM agencies on the report from our latest WeChat newsletter — a weekly briefing on all things WeChat, featuring the latest news, campaigns, reports, case studies & events.