The WeChat app has about 400 million monthly users, most of whom live in China. While the app is primarily used for texting and voice messages, users can also share pictures, play games and even hail taxis. Last month, online retailer JD.com, teamed up with Huawei for a promotion to win the new Honor 6 smartphone, utilizing the WeChat app to guess the retail price and available date of the phone. Last week JD said that over 550,000 customers either pre-ordered the Honor 6 or participated in the contest.
Tencent, the internet giant that developed the WeChat app, announced in March a deal to buy a 15% stake in JD.com, marking the first time the new JD-WeChat store has teamed up with a handset maker. The virtual store run by JD was integrated into WeChat in late May. Huawei had previously teamed mainly with telecom carriers to promote their phones and is now looking to broaden its customer base by dipping into the massive pool that makes up WeChat. This shift in marketing tactics likely comes from Huawei trying to gain market share after coming in sixth place with an 8% slice of the pie behind not only Samsung and Apple but also Chinese rivals such as Lenovo, Xiaomi and Yulong.
With more and more people gravitating towards chat apps and other forms of social media, retailers and manufacturers alike are looking to merge business practices to reach as wide an audience as possible, and wouldn't the lure of nearly a half-billion users logging onto an app with the potential to see your product for sale be an enticing proposition? Also, companies usually spend tons of money promoting their products via commercials or print ads while a virtual store that relies on word of mouth and repostings by millions of users can be seen as a much cheaper alternative. Saving money on advertising could mean savings passed along to the customers. The virtual store has been running ads for the Honor 6 which features a 5 inch screen, a 13 megapixel camera and a mobile processor made in-house by Huawei. The phone went on sale last week in China for 1,999 yuan (about $322).