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WeChat Allows External Links! How Will This Influence Internet Giants?

October 8, 2021 | Kejie Yi

As of September 17th, WeChat users are able to visit external links in one-to-one conversations (though not in group chats yet). This update is in response to the request that the China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has made for the two internet giants Alibaba and Tencent to stop limiting access between their platforms. However, even with this new feature that is only the beginning to this “cooperation” , Alibaba cannot yet take full advantage of the app with the largest user base in China because the user experience of visiting external links on WeChat still cannot compare to a native WeChat page or mini program. How so?

Before this new release, WeChat users in 1:1 chats would have to copy and paste links from Alibaba-owned applications such as Taobao link codes “Taocode” links to their browser or open another app to visit the external link. Now, even though users can click on the external links in 1:1 chats, they will be redirected to a page where they are warned “This page is not provided by WeChat, and we are unable to ensure its safety.” They are then offered three options: to return to chat, continue visiting the page, or report suspicious links.

For WeChat users who continue to visit the external link such as Taobao will have to log in for the first time then continue browsing within WeChat. All of these additional steps required until conversion would most likely result in a lower clickthrough rate and thus a lower conversion rate on a non-WeChat property.

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What Does This Mean for Brands?

Since WeChat is still the most-used communication app in China, most people still send Taobao products through WeChat even if that means the receiver has to copy and paste the “Tao codes” or even download a product poster with the Taobao QR code in order to view the product page and place the order on Taobao. But even though the user experience is still not the best, WeChat users can now make a complete Taobao purchase right within WeChat. This could mean even more DAUs and transactions for WeChat.

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Tao Code

For now, Alibaba has only allowed WeChat Official Account articles to be opened from Taobao chats or within AliPay chats and is slowly integrating WeChat Pay into apps within its ecosystem such as the meal delivery service (饿了么)and video streaming platform Youku (优酷). As the two internet giants continue to allow more access for cross-platform content promotions and transactions with WeChat Pay, brands should focus on designing cross-platform journeys. Since WeChat outcompetes Alibaba’s apps in features that brands can leverage to attract, engage, convert, and build loyalty with Chinese users, building private traffic by directing users to their Official Accounts and even their WeCom group chats will help brands best serve their clients and build loyalty.

It has only been a little more than half a month since the “walls came down” and we look forward to seeing how Alibaba and Tencent will do to help brands create a truly omni-channel experience. But, what is certain is that Chinese users will continue to raise their expectations of brands in delivering better shopping and service experiences. And the best way to meet their expectations is to adjust brand strategy at “China speed” in building automated personalized journeys that best serve each user.

(If you are interested in knowing more about how to build private traffic, watch the video here, or download our full report.

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