China-based media outlet LatePost revealed on 11 December that WeChat’s shopping feature achieved 100 billion (13.9 billion USD) in gross merchandise volume this year. WeChat generates e-commerce revenue via Channels, a TikTok-like short video feature and livestreaming hub within the main app.
This impressive figure still falls far short of sales on specialist short video apps Douyin and Kuaishou, which have become many Chinese consumers’ go-to for online shopping. While Kuaishou sold 800 million RMB (112.4 million USD) worth of goods in the first three quarters of the year, Douyin is on track to post 2 trillion RMB (281 billion USD) in sales this year, according to TechNode.
Nonetheless, Tencent is betting on huge growth in this part of its business and has been expanding its e-commerce team over the past few months to take monetisation to the next level. In an internal meeting last year, founder and chief executive Pony Ma even went so far as to call Channels the “hope of the whole company”, signalling that it has become a core strategic focus for Tencent.
WeChat began as a messaging service but evolved into the world’s first “super app”, as more and more features were added to its portfolio. The addition of an in-app payment system was a game-changer, as combining personal finance and social networking in one location made WeChat an essential part of people’s daily lives.
The last of the major features to be added, Channels (also called Video Accounts or 视频号 in Chinese), was launched in beta mode in 2020. Now, WeChat is perfectly positioned to capitalise on the growing market for luxury live shopping, as it has already cultivated a “pretty significant high-income and affluent customer base”, according to Tencent President Martin Lau. WeChat Channels can hopefully carve out a niche as the go-to destination for luxury live shopping, distinguishing itself from everyman apps Douyin and Kuaishou.