Staff Writer
Jul 30, 2018

Tearing down online-offline boundaries

At Cannes Lions, Tencent’s vice president opened up about the company’s recent developments in communication, smart retail and beyond.

Davis Lin, vice president, Tencent
Davis Lin, vice president, Tencent

Tencent has blurred the lines between the physical world and the Internet. Davis Lin, vice president at Tencent, posited during his Cannes Lions session “Breaking the Boundaries – Online and Offline Marketing Convergence” that online life has now been integrated into the real world.

Once a simple communications portal, Lin demonstrated how Tencent’s multi-purpose application WeChat has transitioned to seamlessly connect daily life for those in China. The full-fledged platform has now expanded to include social media, mobile payment, city services, news and more.

The engine behind this progress? The emerging middle class in China. With a thirst for technological progress, the burgeoning demographic now has higher expectations for brands—especially those taking part in their everyday lives. 

“Consumers in China are advancing rapidly with the adoption of mobile phones in their lives. They’re probably leading the world in mobile payment, they already consume a lot of content, spend a lot of their lives connecting through the Internet to physical life,” said Lin, “As a result, they demand more, they feel like convenience should be at their fingertips.”

Tencent has constructed a new business model in response to this demand, one that does away with the “discontinuity in experience, discontinuity in business process, and discontinuity in service” that have plagued traditional frameworks.

The tools to make it work

Don’t let the application icon fool you—the sheer number of resources available through WeChat and its sister services stretches far beyond what most have come to expect out of similar platforms. WeChat Official Accounts Platform, WeChat Pay, Mini-program, Tencent Social Ads, Tencent Cloud, WeChat Work and “pan-entertainment” intellectual property now interact in ways that were impossible among the previously isolated platforms.

“WeChat has been the centre of all these advancements. It has played a huge part in mobile payment adoption. In the past two years, mobile payment has gone from almost zero, to almost 40 to 50 percent in shops and super markets. In convenience stores, it’s even 60 to 70 percent. So that’s dramatically changed people’s lives” said Lin.

This multi-platform integration, for one, allows users to pay via QR code—adding to their cart by scanning the code in a dedicated Mini-program and paying using WeChat Pay, thus eliminating checkout lines entirely.

On the brand engagement front, this method is doing wonders for improving consumer acquisition. Lin explained, “We’re working with apparel brands, very traditional brands that have been around for 30 or 40 years. We’re helping them to work with their customer service staff to use WeChat to connect better with customers. They can sell apparel online and then go to their Mini-program that they have as their official website, so sales don’t have to happen during the customer’s traditional visit to the shop.”

Under Tencent’s hand, ecommerce is not just reinventing brick-and-mortar stores, but traditional websites as well. Sales are simplified in any situation to click-and-go. O2O has been a buzzword for quite some time now, but the proof is in the pudding. Online and offline consumer landscapes are starting to coincide thanks in large part to these developments.

The future Lin envisions is a bright one, and one marked by true convenience rather than contrivance, “All the staff in a brand, whether it’s a retailer or a brand, will be doing something digital. Either they’re reaching out to consumers using digital tools, or selling things digitally— meaning not in their physical presence—there will be changes in organisation, changes in roles definitions, changing in operational processes.”

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