WeChat Guide for Foreign (Cosmetics) Companies in China

Considered as the “everything app” for China’s 900 million (2021) smartphone owners, WeChat, which is reuniting a bunch of useful functionalities such as a game platform, a bank, and even a gateway for food delivery and thrift shopping has become the must-have tool for foreign companies that want to expand their activities in the world’s most populous country. By reuniting all the services similar to Facebook, Skype, Slack, Amazon, and PayPal, WeChat is not only a powerful social app for Chinese consumers, but is at the core of business corporate strategies in China. However, it is important to know that the Chinese market is way different from what you might be accustomed to, and Chinese consumers’ habits are also very different in terms of cosmetics and beauty products. That’s why it is important to understand WeChat’s ecosystem and rules, as well as Chinese consumer’s habits, in order to know how to take advantage of WeChat to develop your business in China and attract Chinese netizens.

Tencent’s Powerful Social App: WeChat

Established in 1998, Tencent Holdings Ltd., also known as Tencent (腾讯), is a Chinese multinational technology company known for its various Internet-related services and products, which are highly used in entertainment, video games, as well as in artificial intelligence industries. But, one of Tencent’s greatest successes was the launch of what was going to become China’s top leading app: WeChat.

What is WeChat?

Developed by China’s top tech company Tencent, WeChat (known as Weixin 微信 in China) was launched in 2011 in Mainland China, and in 2012 in its international version. Called ‘the app of everything’, WeChat quickly became the world’s largest standalone mobile app, reaching 1 billion monthly active users in 2018. Nowadays, WeChat is boasting over 1.2 billion monthly active users and is part of Chinese people’s daily life thanks to its rich and wide ecosystem of services, from hailing a cab to booking a hospital appointment. Another asset of Wechat is the possibility for users to link their bank account in order to use WeChat’s payment service ‘WeChat Pay’. Therefore, there is no doubt that every foreign company that wants to start its business in China should use WeChat as part of its strategy to conquer the Chinese audience.

For marketers, WeChat can be a useful tool as it provides the following useful functionalities:

  1. WeChat Stores for online shopping.
  2. WeChat Pay and WeChat Wallet for payments to online suppliers
  3. WeChat advertising ecosystem.

However, to create an official WeChat account in Mainland China, you must have a registered business presence in Mainland China as well. Companies based in the United States, South Africa, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Thailand can use a WeChat business account to market on WeChat. But, we’ll come back to the conditions later.

WeChat’s Ecosystem

In fact, WeChat’s Ecosystem is one of the most complete in the world, providing text messaging with a hold-to-talk functionality, video conferencing, video games, but it also acts as a social media such as Instagram or Facebook with the possibility the share pictures and videos on what is called “WeChat Moments”.

As you can see, we can do almost everything just by using a single app that provides a wide variety of services.

Why is WeChat used by the Chinese population in their daily lives?

While our days are punctuated by the use of instant messaging and multiple social media, Chinese people are mainly using WeChat to do almost everything. From the beginning till the end of the day, Chinese people are using WeChat.

Even though WeChat is the main app for Chinese consumers that are using it in their daily lives, in terms of marketing, it is important to take into account that WeChat is a closed platform, and users can only see their friends’ posts. Thankfully, brands can interact with subscribers (people following the brand’s official account on WeChat) on a personalized level.

How to Use WeChat to Promote and Sell Cosmetics in China?

Following China’s rapid economic growth over the years, and the surge of e-commerce platforms, the Chinese cosmetic industry is one of the most lucrative and promising in the world. Attracting thousands of foreign companies every year, China has also become an eldorado for international cosmetic brands that are now aware of the importance of WeChat. With a market that is expected to reach 400 billion yuan in 2023, cosmetic brands should indeed focus on adapting their marketing and advertising strategies to Chinese consumers. Therefore, there are a few advice and tips you should take into account after opening your official account on WeChat.

Growing your follower base on WeChat is Key

Growing the follower base is the key for any new brand or business on WeChat. With WeChat being a closed network, users can only see posts & content if they are following your account, so you’ll have to encourage them to do so. From our experience, there is a magic number when it comes to WeChat: 10,000 followers. This number is an important key factor for your future growth with more re-posts, shares, and an animated community engaging with your brand & business.

In order to attract potential clients, your need to enhance your online visibility and develop your network. The more you’ll satisfy your followers, the more chance you’ll have to reach their friends as they will probably talk about your brand, or post content mentioning your brand. In China, word-of-mouth is the most powerful way to convince people to look at and thy your products. WeChat is a key portal not only as a way to share information but also engage with users in Q&A posts/live streaming, sending newsletters & ultimately providing incentives for followers to engage with your account.

In China, the most powerful way to engage interaction with netizens is to provide quality content. You have to wonder what you can offer to them, how to reach their expectations, give insights as well as provide story-telling. If you want brand loyalty, you need to convince them first to look at your content, then retain their attention in order for them to follow your account, and ultimately, share your account with their friends. As mentioned earlier, WeChat can be considered as a 2.0 word-of-mouth that can reach millions of users.

Here are some tips to grow your Wechat followers base

  • Stay focused on sharing content about the cosmetic industry and your brand of course
  • Establish yourself as a native expert in cosmetics
  • Provide unique insights/offers that are only available on your account
  • Create and use HTML5 content to advertise and engage consumers
  • Use WeChat as a way to interact with your followers. Be responsive and bring them into the conversation. You can also reward them for doing so.
  • If you provide qualitative content, they’ll be more likely to share it on ‘Moments’ feeds’, and nothing is more powerful than P2P sharing amongst social groups.

Advertising on WeChat

WeChat Banner Ads

One of the most popular ways to advertise on WeChat is to use “banner advertising”. These banners are very much like the ad banners you would see on a website. In the context of WeChat, they are featured at the bottom of a message written by an Official WeChat Account.

WeChat banner advertising is the most typical way to grow your WeChat followers with a stable ROI. Thus, it is important to run a few test campaigns with different content to calculate the CPA. A WeChat follower costs between 8 RMB – 20 RMB depending on your targeting and how well you optimize the campaign. It’s a good method to get started on WeChat.

It has three components:
  • WeChat article: WeChat banner ads appear at the bottom of a WeChat article written by another WeChat Official Account.
  • Ad banner: the banner contains a logo, account name, and headline. When clicked, it takes the users to a page containing additional information about the brand/product.
  • Call to action: this redirects users to another landing page.

Banner Ads – A More Targeted Reach

Developments on WeChat banners have been exciting to witness, the benefit of banners is that they target users already engaging with relevant content on WeChat.

Footer & Exchange ads for example can be placed at the bottom of targeted articles about that specific topic, thus you know there is already a degree of active engagement with relevant topics.

WeChat is sometimes fondly referred to as the ‘WeChat Times’ in terms of users browsing for information, articles have become much more important with placing ads alongside such content key for long-term growth.

Banner ads can drive traffic to

  • WeChat Official Accounts
  • WeChat Stores
  • Store page
  • External Links (opened within WeChat browser)

Banner ads have also developed with a greater range of options

  • Footer ads (底部广告) – a banner placed below a WeChat article with a call-to-action button
  • Pre-scrolling video ads (视频贴片广告) – Pre-roll ads in a video
  • Exchange ads (互选广告) – Exchange ads are similar to footer ads. The major difference is that exchange ads may be presented in a larger card format with a call-to-action button.

Wechat Paid Ads Pricing & Costs

For the standard footer banner ads, the primary pricing model is CPC (Cost per click).

  • For the auction scheme (竞价购买), it’s more suitable for advertisers who need flexible advertising time and constant optimization of the ad. The advertising cost is determined by the number of ad clicks. It’s based on real-time bidding and the minimum bidding price for each click is 0.5 RMB.
  • For the scheduling scheme (排期购买), it is ONLY open to account ads for the purpose of promoting the brand or a campaign. Advertisers can schedule a fixed advertising time during the following 2 to 28 days. The price also depends on the location where the ad will be displayed. The pricing model is CPM in this case and the minimum budget is 1,000 RMB for one advertising campaign.

Live Streaming on WeChat: A Very Promising Feature for Cosmetic Brands

Over the years, China’s live streaming industry has grown exponentially, as Chinese internet users are fond of social interaction and entertaining formats that live streaming can provide. As a matter of fact, over the last five years, the number of daily video posts on WeChat has increased more than 33 times, while video content on WeChat Moments is up tenfold.

This explains why live-streaming has even become an important tool to attract Chinese online shoppers, with major social media and e-commerce platforms like Taobao, JD.com, WeChat, and Weibo paving the way.

WeChat’s live streaming functionality that is available for official accounts can be extremely rewarding and promising for the future of online retail. By doing live streaming, brands can attract easily and retain Chinese consumers. Since its launch, many brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Bvlgari, and Burberry have already taken advantage of live streaming, redirecting clients directly to their WeChat Store or e-commerce shop. Therefore, just like other international cosmetic brands, you should take advantage of WeChat to promote your products via live streaming. One of the best ways to engage with your audience is to collaborate with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) that are extremely popular online and can drastically increase your sales.

In 2020, the most popular WeChat mini-program function among Chinese retailers was live streaming, with around 47% of the retail merchants using it. AI shopping assistance and digital membership were also popular, with 35 and 32% of them using these functionalities as well.

The Covid-19 Pandemic’s Impact on WeChat Live Streaming

The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the Chinese market. With people unable to go out shopping, retailers were forced to find ways of attracting consumers online as well as be able to give tips and advice. The most effective solution was using live streaming in order to promote products and encourage customers to purchase directly from them online.

According to a survey on online shopping in China, the usage of live streaming e-commerce grew by 6.3% during the COVID-19 outbreak. Then, we can also see that shopping via short videos increased by 2.6% in comparison to before the pandemic. The two major players who were able to benefit from this shift in consumption were Douyin and Kuaishou.

Therefore, live streaming can be a great tool to promote your business in China. Given the large population of Chinese internet users, you would be able to increase your audience by using live streaming as part of your overall marketing strategy. In 2020, about 62.4% of internet users in China had live-streamed. E-commerce and gaming were the most popular content types of live streaming with about 388 million and 191 million users respectively. Thus, if you want to promote your products online, you’ll be able to potentially be visible by more than half of the Chinese population.

Live streaming commerce is a new format that combines influencer marketing and social experience into a live shopping show on e-commerce platforms. Even though Taobao, Douyin, and Kuaishow are the prominent players in the live streaming commerce market, live streaming on WeChat also has lots of potentials.

What are Chinese consumers purchasing the most during live streaming?

With live streaming shopping being a fast-growing e-commerce trend in China, we can wonder what are the most purchased products during live streaming?

According to Statista’s survey about live streaming e-commerce in China, about 36.14% of respondents claimed that they had purchased cosmetics during an online streaming sale. Thus, it shows that live streaming can be extremely rewarding and interesting for cosmetic brands on WeChat.

WeChat’s H5 Brochures are among the best engaging content you’ll find on WeChat

H5 brochures are designed to be highly engaging, they are most of the time interactive, incorporating audio, music, video animations, or mobile shaking triggers. By using animations like sequential animations, animation groups, and time setup allows you to create and play with countless styles. They can be used for a variety of marketing apps such as games, brochures, advertisements, etc. This is the reason why they are typically used to advertise a specific product or to promote sales and other special events. It can be useful to create an H5 brochure to present your cosmetic brand for example and to provide advice and tips to consumers that want to purchase your cosmetics.

Dermapella H5 Brochure by GMA

Once you’ll have created an H5 page, you will be able to share the link and Quick Response (QR) code on WeChat groups, or on WeChat Moments. It can also be shared and viewed in any browser, but some functionalities may be limited. Remember, the main purpose of the Chinese H5 page is to be shared within WeChat and viewed on a mobile phone.

WeChat’s Mini-Programs

Pandora’s mini-program on WeChat

Another useful functionality available on WeChat is its mini-programs. The platform’s Mini Programs, are third-party “apps” that are running on WeChat without requiring users to download them. They have increased to more than one million in 2018, used by brands such as Burberry, H&M, Dior, and Longchamp. Moreover, SMEs and brands are increasingly connected with users via Mini Programs and WeChat Pay as the annual transaction volume generated from Mini Programs has more than doubled in 2020.

How to use WeChat for developing your business in China?

Let’s start by examining the three types of WeChat business account:

  • Subscription accounts
  • Service accounts
  • Business accounts (Enterprise account)

They all come under the category of official accounts, which are available to celebrities, media, government agencies, and businesses. Subscription accounts offer more messaging, but service accounts offer more professional and in-depth functionalities.

Subscription accounts: It allows a broadcast message per day to subscribers. The messages appear in the subscription account folder. It is used for marketing and advertising.

Service Accounts: It allows up to four messages per month. Messages appear in the Friends list. Audited accounts have access to nine advanced APIs (APIs) and can apply for WeChat Pay.

Corporate accounts are mainly intended for the management of the organization and are not of primary interest to the marketing specialists. They offer career and business services but are only available in mainland China.

The two most popular official accounts for foreign companies are the service account and the subscription account.

Mini-program: A mini Program is more like functionality that was added to WeChat for personal use as well as for government, organization, and enterprise. Official parties can quickly develop a Mini Program. Mini programs can be easily acquired and disseminated in WeChat, without download, and can provide an excellent user experience. It can serve as a platform for WeChat online shoppers to browse on WeChat and directly purchase products.

The importance of having a verified business account

Many cosmetic companies have a Wechat account that people can follow, subscribe to, and add to their network. However, as there are many verified accounts there are also a lot of non-verified accounts. A verified account shows that WeChat recognizes that the account is official and shares high-quality and creative content. Thanks to that recognition, the brand can attract consumers by posting high-quality media content such as videos, pictures, and text messages for their followers. On another hand, consumers are more comfortable when they know that the WeChat account is verified and they will be more likely to subscribe.

What does it mean for you to have a verified business account?

In addition to the trust you will gain from your potential customers, there are also some functionalities and other features that will be unlocked as soon as the verification process will be complete. This verification process costs 300RMB (roughly 45 USD) per year for the Chinese platform and 99 USD per year for the international platform.

However, if you don’t want to waste time and reduce the amount of paperwork and process, you can contact us and we will create a verified account on Wechat for you. You also have to take note that your account’s verified status will remain active for one year from the date of the verification.

Applying for a Business Account on Wechat

A few years ago, there used to be some tough restrictions on who could have a business account on the Chinese WeChat and this is why there were two versions of Wechat, one for Chinese users and the other for international users. The Chinese Wechat was only in Chinese and required to have a Chinese ID, a Chinese phone number, and a business license. The international Wechat was limited to a foreign audience. Thankfully today, international official WeChat accounts are visible to every Wechat user.

The process of applying is not really complicated, but it does require a certain amount of time and preparation. Firstly, you will have to submit a list of documents proving that your business is legitimate. The process will depend on your business and on the account you want to apply for. Finally, you can directly submit your application via the WeChat website and then patiently wait for about two weeks.

How to apply for an official WeChat account?

If you want to create a WeChat official account, you have to have a Chinese entity or get help from a Chinese company. The permanent solution is registering your foreign enterprise in China in order to get a Chinese license, it will be a little bit more expensive and will take 6 months.

For companies that have a Chinese entity:

In order to register an official account through WeChat’s self-service platform, you will need to meet the following requirements:

  • A Chinese ID (身份证 or shēnfèn zhèng)
  • A Chinese phone number
  • A Chinese business license if you have one (营业执照 or yíngyè zhízhào)
  • Chinese organization code (组织机构代码证 or zǔzhī jīgòu dàimǎzhèng)

However, be careful, the registration process is entirely in Chinese! Head to WeChat’s official website for a step-by-step application. That’s why working with a local agency can be extremely useful. At GMA, we will take care of everything, from registering your official account on WeChat to the management of your account. You can contact us for more information, and we’ll talk about it.

After completing the procedure, you will then have to wait for verification and select whether you want to open a service or subscription account. Typically, opening a service account is the preferable option for most businesses.

Register on For foreign companies:

You can use your own international business license

Since 2018, WeChat has begun accepting applications from foreign companies. However, you must be aware that your application will be processed on a case-by-case basis, so, you won’t necessarily have your business account at the end. Working with a professional agency will guarantee the success of your registration as we gather all the necessary documents to give you more credentials.

However, be aware that there are several differences in terms of functionality between accounts that have been registered by companies having a Chinese business license and those that have an overseas license.

You can use a third-party business license

If you don’t want to use either a Chinese business license or your own foreign license, you can choose the business license of another Chinese legal entity to register an account for your company. However, you have to be aware that this method is extremely risky, and we often recommend it to people to avoid it. You will have more troubles than benefits by doing so. Moreover, you will probably have to pay an important amount of money.

How to configure your WeChat business account profile?

compte bussiness wechat

Once your account is approved, you will get access to:

  • The official account administration platform
  • The console from which you can interact with WeChat users
  • WeChat marketing campaigns
  • Monitoring of results. To configure your profile, scroll to the bottom of the page to go to the Settings tab in the left menu.

On this screen you will be able to choose:

  • Your profile image;
  • Create your QR code;
  • Select your region;
  • Add the description of your company (which WeChat calls an “introduction”).

Case Study: Perfect Diary, Mastering WeChat Perfectly

WeChat is the protagonist of Perfect Diary’s social media strategy. PD has used the app to nurture relationships with its audience through direct-to-consumers services. In fact, not fully trusting other distributors like Taobao or JD, the brand has decided to invest more money in the app.

The results: More engagement, consumer data acquisition, higher margins.

WeChat Official Account & mini program

As you subscribe to Perfect Diary’s official account on WeChat, an article is automatically sent to you, which contains a little guide about features and promotions, then you’ll receive a link to its Mini Programs and a gift.

In the timetable, there are leads to promotions, cosmetic tips, online stores, coupons, and not only. So, at a first glance, Perfect Diary’s WeChat account seems to be a standard one, however, you can find an original tool just in the bottom right root menu. Among the four sub-menus, in fact, you can see the labeled “撩小完子” (“flirting with Xiaowanzi”) menu. At this point, you tap “撩小完子” and a QR code pops up, by scanning it you can add Xiaowanzi as a friend on WeChat.

To read the full article on Perfect Diary and how it was able to take advantage of WeChat, you can click here.

Contact Us to Get Started on WeChat and Start Selling your Cosmetics in China

The Chinese market is one of the most promising in the world in terms of opportunities, both for smaller cosmetic companies like startups, but also for larger international companies. But in order to succeed, you will need to adapt your marketing strategies to local demands and methods, such as using the most popular platform in China: WeChat. To do so, you will need to do a lot of research beforehand and develop a strong marketing and communication strategy. However, expanding its activities in China is not an easy task, as 50% of brands fail because they don’t understand the Chinese market well enough. Working with specialists in the Chinese market is the key to success.

Designing the right digital marketing strategy is therefore key. Working with an agency which has both the western and Chinese point of view like Gentlemen Marketing Agency can help you overcome the pitfalls of the Chinese market. Our agency has developed the marketing strategy on Wechat for many companies. We have collaborated with many companies, helping them with their Wechat marketing strategies and our experts are here to help you develop yours in China.

Our services for Wechat:

  • Wechat eCommerce
  • Wechat SEO
  • Mini/Micro-Site Development
  • Ad Campaign Management
  • Content Promotion Strategy (Organic)
  • WeChat Content Creation & Formatting
  • Reporting & Analytics
  • HTML5 Content & Account Development
  • WeChat CRM & Menu

If you want to get to know GMA, you can look at our case studies:

Of course, if you have questions or need more information about our services, do not hesitate to contact us so we can talk about your projects.

 

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