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June 16, 2019

WeChat's ambitious plans to reshape daily lives

PUBLISHED : January 11, 2019 - 15:35

UPDATED : January 11, 2019 - 18:49

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[THE INVESTOR] Guangzhou, CHINA -- Eight years ago, Zhang Xiaolong, a media-shy computer engineer of Tencent Holdings, created a mobile messenger app now used by more than 1 billion users. 

Zhang, also known as Allen, said at the two-day WeChat Open Class Pro -- the company’s largest annual event, held on Jan. 9-10 -- that the goal has never been to merely increase traffic. When the company hit 1 billion average user messages back in August 2018, it did not celebrate the milestone. 

   

WeChat Pay-enabled transportation module displayed at WeChat Open Class Pro 2019
Tencent Holdings




Despite what he said, WeChat is building an ecosystem around the super app, making it difficult for people to live without it.

Its recent endeavors, Mini Programs and Mini Games, have so far proven to be successful, WeChat executives said during the event held in China’s southern city Guangzhou where firm is headquartered.

Launched two years ago, Mini Program -- a built-in platform which allows users to access services of different companies on WeChat without having to download a separate app -- has 200 million daily active users as of July. For instance, a famous milk tea house which used to have a long queue for hours launched a Mini Program that features a waiting list function allowing customers to save time, according to internal case studies.

An increasing number of businesses ranging from municipal government offices to classrooms are adopting the Mini Program, according to WeChat’s Augus Du, assistant general manager of its open platform department. 


Guo Rizen, industry application director at WeChat Pay, talks about the firm’s development during WeChat Open Class Pro 2019.
Tecent Holdings



The company encourages around 1.5 million developers to be involved in creating high quality Mini Programs and Mini Games for the app while promising to provide fair and easy access to the platform.

While Mini Programs and Mini Games are relatively novel efforts, the mobile payment industry is already old, said Guo Rizen, industry application director at WeChat Pay.

“In the last five years, we have moved from visible to invisible and over the next five will continue on the same path,” he said.

What he meant by being invisible is that WeChat Payment users won’t even need to take out their smartphones to scan or make payments. Instead, the firm showcased how people can scan their face and get personalized recommendations or just check-out without lining up. This was a major theme at the exhibition which took place on the sidelines of the conference. This technology is already set to take off in 2019 as WeChat is partnering up with local retailers, he said.

At the annual event, where WeChat announces its latest development strategy and new features, the company said it plans to introduce a voice-activated digital assistance Xiaowei this year. Although voice-activated digital assistance such as iPhone’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, are already popular in the western markets, it is at a nascent stage in Asia, including China.

By Park Ga-young (
gypark@heraldcorp.com)

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