WeChat trials new mini-program to test cross-border e-commerce water

WeChat, China’s instant messaging app owned by Tencent, has rushed into the race of e-commerce with the first step of setting up a mini-program called “Cloud Shopping Around the Globe” which is dedicated to cross-border e-commerce service, as per the Chinese media outlet Xinyan Finance on 15 February. The new feature is reported to have been undergoing an internal test, and Tenpay, a major Chinese cross-border payment solution like PayPal would be the main channel for transactions.

The platform aims to bring together high-quality e-commerce merchants across the globe through mini-programs, according to the platform’s introduction. The mini-program is operated in an aggregated mode, which means cross-border online retailers are invited to join the digital marketplace. Meanwhile, WeChat users can shop for products provided by brands from the rest of the world via this mini program.

The new installation once live, would allow WeChat to capitalise on its huge user base with a diversified app experience, and further gain a slice of market share in China’s e-commerce hype. In return, the move would open another door to China’s lucrative market for cross-border online retailers in addition to existing ones such as Alibaba’s Tmall Global, and leverage WeChat’s more than 1.25 billion monthly active users.

It is understood that the new market space would mainly cover categories ranging from beauty and skin and health care to clothes, shoes, and electronic products. Two years into the venture, WeChat’s cross-border e-commerce mini-programs have been growing in popularity overseas, pulling up sales for foreign brands.

Take the Japanese health and beauty brand Tsuruha Drug. The brand saw 200% year-on-year growth in sales since it entered the platform, with an improved repurchase rate of 43%. Most recently, Saint Laurent, the luxury French brand, has also taken its Rive Droite (a nod to Saint Laurent rive gauche line) to WeChat’s mini-program, a move that has already caused a buzz on Chinese social media.

It can be seen that the market potential remains huge as WeChat is yet a relatively new space for cross-border e-commerce. The new platform would also add value to the platform, creating a new avenue for driving revenue with these extended offers.

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