Chinese manufacturer Xaiomi made headlines recently when Hugo Barra, one of Google’s top Android executives, left Google and moved to China to join Xiaomi. Since then, Barra has been active on his Google+ profile with updates from China and the Chinese smartphone scene. Xiaomi has yet to make a splash in the North American market, but they obviously want that to change.
Now, Xiaomi has announced that it is partnering with the hugely popular messaging app WeChat to experiment with selling devices. WeChat is the second largest messaging app in the world with over 270 million active users. It hasn’t quite caught on in the United States, but in other parts of the world, it dominates.
WeChat added a mobile payment system to their service back in August and it looks like they’re ready to test it. This experiment will see Xiaomi sell 150,000 of their Mi-3 flagship device using WeChat. Customers will be able to order and pay for their new phone within the messaging app, promising a very seamless and easy order process.
Given that WeChat’s payment system is only a few months old, and given the demand for the Mi-3 (it completely sold out in 90 seconds), it will be interesting to see if their payment infrastructure and the app itself can handle the demand. If it works and customers are satisfied with the experience, it could bring a viable new ordering system allowing users to very easily place orders right from their phone. WeChat could partnering with other companies to offer similar commerce options.
This isn’t the first time social websites and apps have dabbled in commerce. Facebook and Twitter have both discussed this idea in the past, and Facebook already has a commerce system in place for buying ads or virtual gifts, but nothing of this caliber. It remains to be seen if potential customers will embrace the idea, or if they’ll prefer the more traditional website ordering system.
What do you think? If you could buy and pay for a new smartphone right from within your favorite messaging app, would you? These apps are always looking for new ways to monetize, so others are probably watching WeChat’s experiment closely to see if it works. If it gains popularity and catches on in other parts of the world, would you use it?