By Tom Noda
Saying the Philippines is a “hyper-social community,” social messaging app WeChat is seeking to bridge the gap between brands and Filipino consumers by turning online conversations into business opportunities.
Oliver Ye, country manager of WeChat Philippines, said among WeChat’s plans is to elevate photo albums into portals for creative exchanges, and expand newsfeeds into networking avenues.
The executive said the recent Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions has defined the new profile of emerging Filipino consumers, their interests, and their behavior that forms a huge impact on local businesses.
“Filipinos are Internet-influenced consumers, rampant mobile users and are very active in social media,” Ye said. “The consumer optimism of Filipinos has remained second highest in Southeast Asia.”
Ye reported among the 38 million Internet users in the Philippines, 34 million consume social media daily with exchanges that cover topics from politics and celebrity news to automobiles and travel.
He said smartphone penetration in the Philippines has grown by 300 percent yearly.
As the country’s netizens continue to be ever more hyper-social, WeChat said it is urging businesses to be more creative in reaching their target consumers online by being present in social media platforms.
“It is advisable for businesses to make the technology they use to work in tandem with the top mobile activities of Filipinos like uploading photos online, watching video clips, and using social networking services,” Ye said.
He clarified that WeChat is not just a free messaging app but is now a legit social media platform designed for smartphone users — whether on Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian, and Windows operating systems.
Released in January 2011, WeChat was developed by Chinese Internet company Tencent Holdings Limited.
Local mobiles phone carriers Globe Telecom and Smart Communications came up with prepaid loads last year that offer unlimited use of WeChat and other similar apps like Korea’s KakaoTalk, and Japan’s Line Messenger.
As of November 2013, WeChat’s registered accounts reached 355 million with over 100 million of those outside China.
Ye shared WeChat recently partnered with online retail stores Zalora and Lazada to boost Filipino online shopping. Both retail sites integrate multiple payment methods such as cash-on-delivery, warranty commitments, and free returns.
Ye disclosed WeChat plans to launch a Philippine office soon located in Makati City composed of marketing, operations, and business development personnel.
Among WeChat’s latest notable features are the QR code scanning, phonebook and location-based connection services such as “Hold Together”, “People Nearby” and “Shake”. The platform also facilitates social interaction with real-time “Walkie Talkie”, “Voice Call” and “Video Call”.
Two features that have made WeChat popular are the WeChat Sticker Shop and WeChat Games. The former offers a variety of animated emoticons that can be used to express emotions, while the latter allows gamers to play and challenge their friends while on the move, share scores and even find competitors nearby.