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What is WeChat? A Deep Dive into China’s Super App

WeChat is the most used app in the world. But how did it reach the top spot? And what makes it special? Even the simplest answer to the question “What is WeChat?” requires a long explanation, for both users and marketers alike.

In this article, we’ll explore why WeChat is an indispensable platform for billions of people in China. We’ll also give you a handful of tips, stats, and tricks about marketing on WeChat so you can pick up and market to a busy WeChat audience effectively.

What is WeChat?

WeChat began as a simple messenger app in 2010. The app quickly gained vast popularity and has grown into what is now known as the first “Super App” to ever exist.

WeChat is a must for every Chinese citizen. The app allows users to make payments, message each other, arrange logistics, play games, and much more. That’s why, as of June 2023, WeChat boasts an astounding 1.33 billion monthly active users (MAUs) — 135 million fewer than the entire population of China. Asking the question “who uses WeChat?” becomes practically redundant in the face of this huge user base.

WeChat is also responsible for Mini Programs — apps that run within the app. Whether it’s booking a taxi, ordering coffee, scanning documents, or conducting surveys, the WeChat Mini Program provides a comprehensive array of services. Today, there are over one million Mini Programs available for WeChat, with dozens of successful businesses thriving off of the main app. Moreover, the Mini Program runs smoothly on both Android and iOS, reducing development costs and enhancing efficiency.

WeChat also boasts a mobile payment and digital wallet service, WeChat Pay, enabling users to transfer money, make payments, and even use public transportation. With its wide array of features, WeChat has cemented its place as a versatile and indispensable platform.

What Do Users Like About WeChat?

Users report various different reasons for coming back to WeChat day after day. The main sentiment is that it’s necessary for life in China. For example, one user states “WeChat includes everything I need. I can pay with WeChat Pay, and can do almost everything with Mini Program, including retrieving vaccination records, doing a poll, and making morning coffee orders.”Marketing professional Octavia highlights that “WeChat is deeply intertwined with the entire Chinese domestic market ecosystem, offering unparalleled daily convenience.” Government agencies, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, financial institutions — virtually any service or brand you can think of — have established official accounts on WeChat.

These accounts not only update news regularly but also offer users a shortcut menu for functions such as making appointments, checking credit scores, and seeking answers to common queries. Even street vendors display their WeChat Pay QR codes at checkout counters.

Another user, Ruiyi Zhou says, “WeChat offers diverse functions. Its mobile portability aligns well with people’s current communication needs.”

WeChat’s fundamental role is as a messaging app. In this category, the app excels. In addition to emojis, WeChat has a sticker library and also encourages users and artists to craft personalized memes as emojis or artwork, adding a playful touch to conversations among friends.

In addition to messaging, WeChat user Iris also mentions that, “WeChat is an incredibly potent real-time social networking app. I connect with my friends and family through WeChat.” WeChat offers regular call and video call functions, making it easier for users to chat with their friends and family anywhere and anytime. While mobile phones offer similar features, they often come with additional charges, and using the integrated functions in WeChat is a quicker and more convenient way.

How Does WeChat Generate Revenue?

According to Tencent’s most recent financial statement, WeChat, “revenues increased by 11% year-on-year to ¥149.2 B RMB for the second quarter of 2023.” The app generates revenue in multiple ways:

  • 50% of revenue is generated through “Value-added Services ” (VAS).

  • 17% is generated through online advertising.

  • 32% is generated from FinTech and Business Services.

Nailing down every service would be a mammoth task, such is the scale of WeChat’s revenue operations. But, to speak of ads, Tencent sees improving “demand for Video Accounts advertising” as central to their growing revenue streams. Let’s look at how marketers should be taking advantage of WeChat’s advertising platform.

How Can Marketers Make the Most of WeChat?

WeChat is a massive opportunity for marketers. But how can they make the most of this platform? In this section we’ll cover the different advertising opportunities on WeChat brands can utilize to reach WeChat users. If you’re thinking “what is WeChat, again?” scroll to the end for more information.

WeChat’s Advertising Opportunities

WeChat offers a wealth of advertising opportunities for businesses looking to reach their target audience effectively. However, three primary types of advertising stand out: banner ads, moments ads, and Mini Program ads. Each is designed to engage users in impactful ways. Time to list those out:


In-Text Ads

In-text ads are displayed in the middle of the text content, just like native ads. WeChat’s advertising system matches the most suitable advertisement to display to users based on the targeting of the ad creatives and the user profile of the reader.

Footer Ads

Footer ads are located at the bottom of an article.

Pre-Roll Video Ads

The pre-roll videos appear in WeChat articles and before the videos. They can have a duration of over 5 minutes.

Mutually-Selective Ads

This is a model in which advertisers and publishers mutually select and freely establish advertising collaborations through the WeChat Advertising Platform. The creative is presented at the end of an article.

WeChat Moments

WeChat Moments ads are a powerful tool that can capitalize on the frequency of users checking their Moments feed. These in-feed ads provide high exposure that drives traffic to official accounts, store pages, or external links. The typical format includes the brand’s name and profile image, a concise description, a link to an HTML5 webpage, and up to six pictures or 15 seconds of video. In practice, this looks like the example below:

According to Octavia, the benefit of these ads is that “users can see their friends’ engagement under a Moments ad. For example, if a celebrity is featured in the ad, I can see friends who are fans of him/her commenting on the ad.” This type of unique engagement draws users in effectively.

WeChat Mini Program ads

WeChat Mini Program ads have rapidly gained popularity among Chinese brands and digital marketers. By leveraging the efficiency and user-friendly nature of Mini Programs, advertisers can deliver their messages directly to their target audience, capturing attention and driving engagement.

There are four types of ad placements, namely Banner Ads, Incentive Ads, Interstitial Ads, and Grid Ads.

  1. Banner Ads 

Banner ads appear on home pages, and the display position is determined by publishers.

  1. Incentive Ads

These ads require users to complete video views or scroll through a page. Such ads grant rewards (i.e. extra life for a game, or points) to users after they close the ad page. There are two main formats: incentive video playback and incentive click-through.

  1. Interstitials

The interstitial ad will automatically be displayed when users trigger it, and users can close the ad at any time.

  1. Grid Ads

This is currently supported only by WeChat Mini Games. The actual display position of the ad is determined by the publisher.

As we’ve seen, WeChat offers advertisers a massive array of options. But with all that choice comes challenges that sometimes need more guidance. Still stuck on “What is WeChat?” Well, Nativex can help.

Exploring WeChat Video Channel

What Is the WeChat Video Channel?

WeChat Video Channel is an integrated feature within the WeChat ecosystem. Similar to short video platforms like Douyin and Kwai, the platform welcomes everyone to record and share snippets of their daily lives. It places a great emphasis on everyday moments and social interactions. People can press a “heart” to like the videos, and the video will then be visible to all the friends in his/her social circle on WeChat.

The platform has seen significant growth. According to Tencent’s 2023 Annual Report, the total time users spent on the Video Channel more than doubled compared to the previous year.

To incentivize creators, Tencent also provided monetization support, such as enabling merchandise sales through live streaming and connecting creators with brands for marketing campaigns.

What Are Popular Topics on the WeChat Video Channel?

Users enjoy videos that cover general lifestyles on the WeChat Video Channel. Among the topics, livestream commerce, food tasting, and entertainment variety shows are the most favored themes.

The WeChat ecosystem’s community-oriented feature encourages users to like and share content. In fact, 77% of users would ‘like’ videos to ensure their friends can also see them, making these liked videos a crucial window for information dissemination. Additionally, 60% of users tend to share videos through private messages or on their WeChat Moments to promote videos they find interesting or valuable. This behavior has established video as an effective platform for word-of-mouth marketing, enhancing the impact of KOC and KOL-driven promotions.

What’s more, these users are decisive when placing orders. They most often buy daily essentials from the platform and have a high repurchase rate. Specifically, 61% of users have shopped on the platform, 87% would consider buying again, and 92% are looking forward to future shopping opportunities on the platform.

Who Are the High-Value Users of WeChat Video Channels?

The 2024 WeChat Video Channel Super User Marketing Value Report categorizes its high-value users into three segments: mature, developing, and high potential.

  • Mature Users: These users spend a considerable amount of time watching videos on the platform and are heavily involved in content. They have rich purchasing experience in various categories within the video channel and demonstrate a strong willingness to repurchase. With stable incomes, these users possess strong spending power and are eager to spend.

  • Developing Users: These users also spend significant time on the video channel and show high engagement. They have made some purchases from the platform but are usually focused on specific product categories. Although they have a stable income, they tend to be cautious about making purchases.

  • High Potential Users: These users do not spend as much time watching videos or making purchases on the channel, but those who have made purchases show a high willingness to repurchase. In general, these users make sizeable incomes but also have high expectations for the purchased products.

KOL marketing on the WeChat Video Channel

KOLs Nurture Viewers’ Interest

Brands must focus on content, user engagement, product optimization, and brand image to promote themselves. A skilled KOL is a powerful storyteller, as they are able to explain product features in a compelling way, fostering meaningful connections between brands and users.

When selecting KOLs to collaborate with, most brands consider KOLs from various verticals beyond those specifically in their product category to maximize the impact. There are also brands leveraging the KOL’s network and social influence to create a buzz, creating a sense that people are all talking about the brand.

WeChat Video Channel Best Practice #1

During the launch phase of Oppo’s new product, Oppo Find N3, the consumer electronics manufacturer noticed a growing concern among consumers regarding data privacy and security. To address these issues, Oppo collaborated with WeChat Video Channel KOL, Xu, to discuss privacy preservation in a short video, while introducing the “VIP mode” feature on Oppo Find N3, highlighting its ability to enhance personal privacy.

So, why WeChat Video Channel, and why Xu? It’s because WeChat has broad audience coverage and can disseminate information quickly. Meanwhile, Xu was selected for his representation of business professionals with a strong demand for privacy and data security.

The campaign achieved significant success, with a total video playback volume of over 16.75 M across multiple platforms, including 2.38 M views on the WeChat Video Channel and over 100,000 engagements.

New Product Launches

There are an increasing number of brands prioritizing the WeChat Video Channel as a key platform for their new product launch event. Working with the WeChat Video Channel allows brands to take advantage of all resources within WeChat’s ecosystem to enhance exposure and seize attention to the new product.

WeChat Video Channel Best Practice #2

To promote its buckwheat liquor, the liquor brand Maopu produced a documentary video that explores how white wine reflects culture and history while explaining the brand’s essence. Maopu collaborated with the well-known history and culture KOL Yitiao to enhance the documentary’s cultural appeal and reach its target group.

This collaboration engaged over 1,000 high-net-worth individuals at the documentary’s premiere event. In addition, the premiere’s livestream attracted nearly 400,000 viewers, topping the livestream chart of the day.

Following the release, Yitiao supported publicity across 12 platforms to maximize exposure and reach. Maopu also partnered with many other KOLs, using relevant topic hashtags to drive engagement and discussion, continuing the impact.

Livestream Commerce

In addition to industries where purchase decisions are made quickly, those with longer decision-making processes, such as automobiles and real estate, are also beginning to livestream to engage with consumers.

It is evident from case studies that, whether targeting mass categories or niche segments, brands can quickly reach and convert consumers through WeChat Video Channel livestreams. Many brands are capitalizing on the platform’s rich demographics and the value of the traffic it attracts to drive sales.

WeChat Video Channel Best Practice #3

STARLUUJIE is a toothpaste brand specializing in whitening. Knowing that users of WeChat prefer to watch lifestyle and educational content, STARLUUJIE collaborated with dentists.

During its livestream, these professionals discussed common oral hygiene mistakes, answered viewers’ questions about dental care, and educated them about STARLUUJIE’s product ingredients, then directed viewers to the product link.

Along with its other pricing strategies, the brand achieved a conversion rate of over 3% and an ROI of over 1.4 during the first week.

What is WeChat? Nativex Can Help You Master This Essential “Super App”

As WeChat maintains its status as a daily tool for millions of Chinese users, there are major opportunities for advertisers seeking to expose their brand in China. If you want to start marketing on WeChat, get in touch with Nativex. As a global ad agency for Tencent Marketing Solutions (the first of its kind), we know exactly how to make WeChat work for our customers.

Working with us gives you instant access to exclusive benefits, including localized creatives and exclusive platform insights. With our support, you can reach the ROI you’re looking for on WeChat.

Want to learn more about the Chinese social media marketing ecosystem? Take your pick from our guides on What is Bilibili?, What is Xiaohongshu?, What is Kuaishou?, What is Douyin? and What is Weibo? You can also keep your eye on the blog for more updates as they happen.

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