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How Tencent leads Hong Kong on the road to a cashless future

2019 is set to be the year for mobile commerce and alternative payments such as e-wallet for both in-store and online. Norman Tam, general manager and head of the Hong Kong and Taiwan office for the international business group at Tencent, talks about how the group’s technology innovations will lead the way.

Tencent’s WeChat has become the go-to all-in-one solution for a user’s daily life. It has an entire ecosystem, including messenger, a social networking platform (WeChat Moments), newsletters, e-wallet (WeChat Pay), and
WeChat mini programmes. It is the app of choice for Chinese users, while its popularity is rising in Hong Kong because of the increasing usage of WeChat Pay.

WeChat Pay is the most positively talked about brand among millionals in Hong Kong, according to the latest YouGov BrandIndex. It is ahead of its competitor Alipay HK which is in third place. WeChat Pay has come out
on top by harnessing the power of word-of mouth recommendations among younger Hongkongers. In Hong Kong, the demand for e-wallet is soaring, as mobile commerce is expected to become the most popular online shopping
channel next year, at which point, mobile is projected to account for more than 50% of all online sales, according to the Worldpay’s Global Payment Report.

In a bid to further expand e-wallet adoption, WeChat Pay has introduced cross-border payment for Hongkongers, with the aim to bring in a convenient, secure and simple e-payment service. Starting from October 2018, Hong Kong
users are able to pay for goods in China via their WeChat Pay Hong Kong account. The first batch of vendors included Didi Chuxing, Meituan Dianping and railway ticketing platform 12306.cn.

“Online merchants such as McDonald’s China, and some of the offline KFC stores in China have also joined the cross-border payment system for Hong Kong. We will continue to expand the network to include more offline and online merchants,” Tam says.

This move will indirectly accelerate the pace of digitalisation in Hong Kong. “The pace of user adoption of the e-wallet will speed up,” Tam says. WeChat has been creating more application scenarios for Hong Kong consumers as a way to encourage the use of e-wallets.

WeChat Pay Hong Kong has collaborated with various local parties such as Prudential and Sun Hung Kai Properties’ shopping malls to give away WeChat Red Packets to users as an incentive for them to use their e-wallets. In particular, the campaign launched during the Chinese Lunar New Year, which was the peak season for people to send and receive “red packets” as a Chinese festive tradition. The company recorded that 130 red packets were sent per minute during the campaign period, with a 44% growth of new registered users.

Tam says the campaigns were well-received by both merchants and users. For merchants, there was significant growth in sales and expansion in target audiences. While the users benefited from the elevated customer experience.

“Brands leverage our WeChat ecosystem to cover the entire customer journey, from making purchase decisions, to settling transactions, and providing after-sales service.” Tam says the company will encourage businesses to do more CRM campaigns on the platform in the future.

More and more brands are presenting themselves on WeChat’s official account. According to Tencent, JHC(日本城) set up a WeChat Hong Kong official account, followed by the launch of a Christmas promotion campaign, which increased sales by 5% at all JHC stores. The company also recorded a substantial growth of customers who settled their transactions via WeChat Pay. In addition, JHC recruited more than 30,000 fans for its WeChat official account during the campaign. The payment platform not only improves sales, but also helps enhance interaction between the brand and customer, and build customer loyalty.

Moreover, WeChat Moments serves as an advertising platform for brands. Maxim’s Group Hong Kong launched a mooncake pre-ordering campaign in 201􀍳 which resulted in 7,000 boxes of mooncakes being sold out within two hours via WeChat. The campaign was launched again on the platform in 2018.

“Many people see us as a B2C company, but in recent years we have developed plenty of B2B technologies such as special targeting for brands.”

Tam further explains that this function not only reaches local users, but also users who are travelling overseas. WeChat allows brands to specifically target travellers with pop-up relevant ads in WeChat Moments during their travelling periods.

“We are talking about millions of Chinese travellers. Marketers are intrigued by this function (pop-up relevant ads) to reach more potential customers. It is effective as the ad is shown according to the location of the users. The higher the relevance of the ad is, the greater impact it will bring, then the conversions will increase.”

Tam is also seeing more Hong Kong marketers using WeChat’s mini programmes, which provide wider user navigation. Companies can offer services such as e-commerce, entertainment and coupons within the app.

Big hit: Tencent’s music streaming app JOOX Music has a karaoke feature.

Apart from the WeChat ecosystem, Tencent’s music streaming app – JOOX Music, which won the User’s Choice App award at the Google Play User’s Choice Awards 2018, also brings in more interactive entertainment for music lovers such as the Karaoke feature and the live-streaming of music concerts.

“Since JOOX offers so many interactive experiences as an entertainment platform, it has attracted brands to place advertisements.” The platform offers various formats of advertising, including pop-up ads and audio ads. He claims its average click through rate is higher than 1%.

New way to pay: Tencent’s vending machines allow customers to settle transactions via WeChat.

No doubt marketers must keep up with the fast-evolving technology. Tencent cloud has developed and provided an array of smart solutions such as AI facial recognition, image recognition, speech recognition and AI ad targeting for corporates to deploy in their businesses. For instance, the smart solutions can be used to open unmanned stores and set up automatic registration at business events.

“These solutions will help in enhancing the customer experience, reducing operational costs, capturing and analysing data. The smart solutions upgrade both the business and the customer journey.” Tam says.

“Digital marketing is an irreversible trend. But we don’t only focus on online, we leverage our solutions offline to bring alive multi-dimensional business.”

The most important objective is to provide a consistent overall retail experience that matches a brand’s attributes so consumers can enjoy seamless and secure shopping and payments from desktop, to mobile, to bricks-and- mortar.

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