WeChat is currently installed on more than half a billion devices in China.
Its services have with no doubt taken the country by storm, an achievement that Tencent, the current owner of the app, seems ready to build on and expand its services to other parts of the world.
Not just China alone, but WeChat offers its services in other Asian countries as well and according to the latest stats, there are more than 650 million monthly active users on this platform, all of which are from Asia. Despite the app’s success in this region, it has very little or rather nothing to show off when it comes to the American market. One may blame this on the cultural differences that separate these two regions, but on the other hand, the hard truth may just be all about the huge number of apps already available in this region.
WeChat started overseas campaigns back in 2014, but decided to cut the funding somewhere in 2015 as it realized dismal growth in its user base. According to the President of Tencent, Martin Lau Chi-ping, Western users are all taken. The Chinese app has no significant user base in the West and there are no signs of any support coming from local networks in the U.S. This makes it problematic when it comes to competing with household names such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger as well as Snapchat.
The advantage WeChat holds over other messaging apps is that it offers more than just messaging and calling services. Thousands of payments are facilitated through this app on a single day, something that has yet to make its way into the American soil. However, it might be hard for the app to come in on its own and succeed, hence the need for partnerships with local players, just like Viber is currently doing with Canadian start up Kik.
WeChat recently made a smart move of invading one of the regions that is heavily dominated by WhatsApp – Africa. However, it has started from South Africa where it has partnered with some local players in a bid to offer citizens WeChat Wallet services. This is the first of its kind to happen outside China or rather Asia.
Just like Facebook has recently partnered with Uber to start offering users with transport services, WeChat already offers similar services in China. In early December last year, news broke that Uber had been blocked on WeChat, something that still holds. Nonetheless, users can still hail and pay for local cabs, make reservations, purchase items online and in stores and even order as well as pay for meals in restaurants.
Facebook is currently working on M – an AI-based assistant that will work just like WeChat is, offering users with services such as calling cabs, making travel and hotel reservations, delivering gifts and many others. Just recently, news broke that Google is also working on a similar AI-based messaging app that will let users ask the search engine giant for anything and a response will be provided by chatbots.
With such moves in the Western market, it only gets tougher for WeChat to break into this tightly-contested market. Nonetheless, the services the app offers are more than anything you get on any of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts and many other apps that are booming in the West.