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Top 5 Ways Western Financial Services Firms Are Failing on WeChat

When creating our report WeChat for Financial Services, we quickly noticed that, in general, Chinese financial services firms are far ahead of Western firms when it comes to digital transformation on WeChat. 


That is understandable. Chinese firms are naturally more familiar with the WeChat platform and how deeply ingrained it has become in Chinese society, which means that, while they too face intense bureaucracy and regulations, it is surely easier to get decision makers on board and to be more experimental with WeChat initiatives. 


What’s more, when it comes to mobile experiences and how financial firms should present themselves, Chinese firms hold a different set of cultural norms than we do in the West. It doesn’t seem strange for a banking or insurance platform to feature cartoon characters, mobile slot machine games, or to reward customers with points just for signing into their account. 


To help Western firms level up their China marketing strategies and achieve a greater ROI, we rounded up the 5 key mistakes that Western firms are making: 

 1. Not using WeChat as the core engagement hub

Many Western firms are still not seeing WeChat as the focal point of their China efforts. They are still in a fragmented mindset of:

Website + social accounts + app + email


 Which in China should look like: 

WeChat Official Account + WeChat broadcast messages + WeChat mini programs + WeChat template messages & 48-hour journeys  


Instead of reaching, engaging, and providing services to consumers on multiple platforms, WeChat enables brands to guide consumers through all the phases of the customer journey, from awareness to conversion to retention, all within the WeChat ecosystem.


The advantage is that, by doing so, WeChat becomes a closed loop ecosystem. Firms can track consumers’ behaviors and use the data they collect to segment and retarget users with personalized content and offers. Because consumers do not need to download a new app and they already spend hours every day in WeChat, a WeChat-centric strategy will have lower drop-off rates and higher levels of engagement. 

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2. Relying too heavily on standalone apps

Expanding on the first point, many firms are still using WeChat as a marketing channel to funnel users to their standalone apps instead of building out mini programs within WeChat that can provide the same services with a much more convenient and seamless user experience.


While there is still much room for improvement, most Chinese firms have begun creating mini programs to replace the services found in their standalone apps. 

 Every Chinese firm we looked at had at least 1 mini program, many had 3-4, and some even more.

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In contrast, out of the Western firms we reviewed, only half of them had at least 1 mini program.

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If it was back in the early stages of mini programs in 2017 or even 2018, this would be understandable, as they were a new technology and not yet widely adopted. But in 2020, mini programs have already become mainstream and are used by nearly every industry including data sensitive sectors such as governmental organizations, medical facilities, divorce filings, and IDs for travel.

3. Poor or no customer journeys

Besides 4 monthly broadcast articles and notification template messages, firms cannot proactively send content and messages to Official Account followers.


Unless (!) a follower triggers what is called a 48-hour window. During this time period, the account can send that user an unlimited number of messages and content, meaning your firm can create customer journeys similar to an automated email sequence.


There are many ways to trigger a 48-hour window, and one of the key triggers is when a new user follows your account. By following your account, they have clearly expressed interest in your firm. Take advantage of this moment to show them what services your account has to offer, and drive the user to take immediate action such as creating an account or connecting them to a relationship manager.


The responses and engagement with this series of messages can also help you tag the user, group them, and know which type of content to send them moving forward.


During our research we found that both Chinese and Western firms are not taking advantage of this incredible feature.

  • An effective welcome journey will consist of at least 4 messages sent during the 48-hour window, on average firms are sending 1.35 messages.

  • Only 7% of firms are personalizing the content to the user

  • Only 43% are pushing users to bind their WeChat ID and PII during the journeys. Capturing this data is crucial as it allows you to track the user across all brand WeChat touchpoints.

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Chatly client TD Ameritrade’s initial 48 hour journey sequence is one of the most developed that we found among Western firms. The account’s welcome message lists key services offered in the account with clickable links directly to those services (left). The account also sends users additional follow up messages sharing popular articles (right).

4. No gamification or incentives to engage on a daily basis

These days offering account management, customer service and educational content within WeChat is a given. To really boost engagement, retention and conversion, brands across all industries will gamify the user experience and offer consumers incentives and rewards for interacting with your account on a regular basis.


While this is something a Western firm may not feel is suitable for the financial services industry, in China it is perfectly acceptable. In the West it’s common to give rewards points for purchases, while in China they also give rewards points for logging in every day or completing tasks and activities within the WeChat account or mini program.

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Standard Chartered has created a rewards system for bank account holders and investors. The more money they have in their bank account or put into investment products; the more star points they can earn.


  • Incentivizes users to visit your account more frequently

  • When paired with an educational mini program can help users learn about the financial services industry

  • Can help users discover more services or offers

Group buying and social sharing are also popular trends in China and we have seen firms applying these concepts to financial services, offering rewards to clients who recruit their friends and family to open an account, or giving points if all of the people in your designated friend or family group spend a certain amount on their credit card each month.


5. Poor customer service and relationship management features

Originally built as a chat app, one of the core features of WeChat is the ability for brands to have private 1-to-1 conversations with customers and leads. WeChat Official Service accounts are great for just that, providing customer service, with features such as auto-responders, quick-reply configurations, one-to-one chatting, and the ability to integrate with external CRM systems.  


WeChat is Chinese consumers’ preferred communication channel and many Chinese consumers expect to be able to access a company’s customer service through WeChat.


Live support is the best and most convenient option for users, likely to generate the greatest customer satisfaction, yet only 57% of firms we looked at provided live support within WeChat. With live support in WeChat, brands can archive conversations and attach them to the user’s WeChat ID for future reference.


 What’s more, only 14% of firms had a customer service mini program. Mini programs are a great option because they can be supported by a mix of autoresponders, customized chatbots, and live support.


WeChat is also a key channel for relationship management with key account holders. Chinese consumers rarely use email outside of work, in fact email open rates can be as low as 1%. To meet compliance standards while still being able to converse with clients on WeChat, financial services firms can leverage WeChat’s sister app WeChat Work.


WeChat Work allows companies to create verified accounts for their Relationship Managers and have full transparency into their conversations with clients through the chat archiving feature.

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The employee sends a chat archiving mini program card to the client (left).When they click into the card, the client can read the consent request form and hit the button to give consent (right).

To see more of our findings and case studies, download our reports:

WeChat for Financial Services: Digital Transformation Catered to the Chinese Consumer

WeChat Initial Touchpoints Optimization Guide: Financial Services Edition



WeChat for Financial Service

In order for Western financial services firms to compete against locally established giants, they must set up their WeChat Account for success and provide a high-touch personalized experience for users.

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