Why Chat when we can ‘WECHAT’?

I moved to Australia in February this year. The first thing I did after getting off the plane is asking the airport security if there is an app people use to book cabs. The security guy was slightly puzzled and said, “Well I guess there are, but there are taxis waiting over there. You don’t need an app.” So I asked him to recommend a few to me anyway for future reference but he couldn’t think of any. However he was kind enough to give me a number to call.

This came as a shock to me.  Back in Beijing, calling for a taxi is virtually non-existent. Even my grandpa has a Didi or Uber app. I then turned to my most trusted source of information center, WeChat and Weibo, to get to the bottom of this mystery. After posting a question within the day, I got all the information I needed regarding the best apps and websites.

Suggestions on not just taxis, but virtually everything you can think of, make up, food delivery, even second hand designer bags.  Well, at least the best and highly regarded information by the Chinese community here. AND I TRUST these opinions. Not only because their preference is most likely closest to my habits and taste, but also because they are the most vigorous and thorough commentators and provide a critique on any product or service.

So here I am, fluent in English and I consider myself to be westernized, having spent four years in the US, witnessing the rise of Facebook. I was also lucky enough to enjoy the greatest social networking tools ever in China. HOWEVER, for me, as well as all my friends, our first instinct is to use Chinese sites and apps. Surely Chinese is more natural for our eyes to digest, but I think more importantly, for most Chinese immigrants the feeling of communicating and experiencing the online world in a way that is culturally relevant is a must!

We now live in a world where fewer and fewer consumers rely on purely company generated advertising. Consumers turn to word of mouth as the most reliable form of advertising. Over 70% of consumers believe the customer opinions posted on line. The research shows consumers trust strangers in their own social network more than experts (Nielsen global survey). This is more so when it comes to Chinese consumers. In China, 57% of consumers get their shopping information on social network and interact in online communities that talk about the brands and products, (globally the number is only 38%). This number stays the same for those who move out of China. They still use the same sites and apps even when they move across the globe. For example, Taobao, is a purely Chinese based e-commerce platform that every Chinese uses. 

We are so reliant on this website and find it indispensable for our online shopping needs and most people who moved out of China continue to use it. But it is problematic because most of the shops on Taobao don’t offer international shipping. To address this huge demand, there are websites developed by Australian Chinese that allow Chinese audience here to shop online just like they did on when they were in China.

These websites allow you to shop on it just like you did in China along with the payment process we are used to, and invite your local address of the country you are in, and the logistics are taken care of by these service providers with fast and cheaper international shipping. In Australia alone, there are more than three websites dedicated to let Taobao users to shop online the way they liked to shop back home. Yes each of these websites has over 150,000 Chinese users.

This is why as much as I am proficient in English and enjoy Facebook, the best information and most fun I experience are still from the Chinese social media sites and Apps. I asked my Chinese friends here, both young and old, and they all feel the same way.

This is probably why in 2013, when Kevin Rudd sent a personal message to the Chinese on WeChat to wish them Happy Chinese New Year, it was very well received and very much talked about, it even made waves in the social media back in China. So rarely does a mainstream Australian figure or brand embrace the real trend of how to reach Chinese communities that it became the topic at the time. I am sure Mr. Rudd’s team was encouraged to take this step because of the positive response of opening a Weibo account a few months before. Over 500,000 followers flocked to follow him only a few weeks after he opened this account.

I was told that the very popular Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi joined Weibo ahead of his visit to China recently. Since then, he has been conversing with Chinese president and Chinese Weibo users in Mandarin.

Today WeChat has a staggering number of 500 million active users per month. 55% of these users open their WeChat more than 10 times a day. Daily reading time on WeChat is over 40 minutes. Just in Australia, WeChat has experienced a growth of 347% between Q1 2013 to Q1 2014. And, Weibo monthly active users reached 198 million in March 2015.

By Di Wu

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