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Facebook wants to be the next WeChat, hard!

Inside The F8 Facebook Developers Conference
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Facebook F8 Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Facebook Inc. is opening up its Messenger chat application, letting developers create software for people to add photos, videos and other enhancements to their online conversations. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent publication in the media, entitled “The Perspective of Privacy in Social Networks,” has drawn wide public attention. He said that the future platform will focus on simple, intimate interactions, as well as a mix of Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

At the same time, he also hopes to “create more interactive ways for people, including telephone, video chat, group, story, business, payment” and so on. Lei learned that Mark Zuckerberg recently commented on an article about suggesting that Facebook should try to learn from WeChat. He admits, “If I listened to your suggestion four years ago, it would be fine.”

Many people have inferred that if Facebook wants to imitate and surpass WeChat, its ultimate goal should be to become a application similar to a super application. But can Facebook really achieve this goal?

Facebook wants to be the next WeChat, hard!

Digital ecosystem

There are many inventions that have revolutionized culture and society. Phone, TV, Internet, PC, smartphone, app. Now, WeChat is paving the way for its next phase, the digital ecosystem. This is exactly what Facebook wants to copy.

WeChat Digital Ecosystem: A Seamless Mobile Lifestyle

In order to better describe Mark Zuckerberg’s vision, we need to start with some examples of success or inspiration and inspiration. WeChat is known as WeChat in China. It has more than 1 billion active users worldwide. We can say that WeChat dominates China’s social network world.

The Chinese version of WeChat, with many applications, does not exist in the international version. Users can order, pay, collect, shop, pay utility bills, and check in. It is ubiquitous, and even in some provinces in China, users can apply for divorce through WeChat.

To summarize the usage functions provided by WeChat, most of the functions are usually divided into the following categories:

  • Social media: It includes private information, groups, “moments” (similar to Facebook’s message boards) and “nearby people” to help you find and meet others.
  • News, Weather, Entertainment Gossip, Marketing, Advertising, Blogs / Influential People / KOL related content: Users can read articles, get to know the news or follow some bands, blogs and celebrities. There are also some public numbers, brands can communicate with customers and fans.
  • E-commerce, payment, scheduling: You can buy online and offline products through WeChat. You can order food, buy movie tickets, transfer money, and pay for water and electricity. You can even use this app to pay change for street performers, hawkers or squatters.

According to Lei (public number: Lei Feng) , WeChat belongs to Tencent’s products. As the leader of China’s e-commerce platform, includes online and offline markets, logistics, big data and more. The combination of the two also launched WeChat intelligent healthcare, which allows users to book medical appointments and pay through WeChat public accounts. According to relevant data, in 2017, there were more than 38,000 medical institutions in China with WeChat accounts, many of which provided online consulting services, and about one-third received WeChat payment.

  • Applet: In 2017, WeChat launched a small program, an application that provides advanced features and services in the app, such as games, online stores, shared bikes, offline event licenses, customer relationship management systems, discounts, and more.

For example, at Wal-Mart, there is no need for users to wait in line in a long queue in front of the checkout counter. Just open the WeChat applet, scan the barcode, and pay with WeChat. Zhang Xiaolong, known as the “father of WeChat”, mentioned in the WeChat Open Class in January 2018 that the next important step of WeChat is to explore offline services.

“Best Bio”: WeChat offers apps from many Western worlds including Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Amazon, Uber, Venmo, Apple Pay, Deliveroo, Epocrates, KRY, Microsoft HealthVault, and more. Tencent’s strategic partnership has also made WeChat a growing empire that is larger than any other existing application. In contrast, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are limited to SMS, communication, and marketing.

Facebook wants to be the next WeChat, hard!
(Image from Alarice International)

How does Facebook become the “WeChat” in the West?

From Facebook’s recent announcement, Facebook should make changes in two ways:

  1. For social media, strengthen instant messaging. Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp should be able to connect and integrate messages between three applications without worrying about whether their friends use the same application.
  2. In terms of e-commerce and payments, users must now leave Facebook on Amazon or eBay’s webpage and pay with an external provider. Facebook needs to have its own in-app shopping and payment system to extend user usage. This is probably some idea of ​​adding a “commercial” factor.

This new business model may result in the system allowing anyone to list products or partnerships with e-commerce platforms so that users can purchase things within the app. This may also lead Facebook to develop an offline payment system that goes hand in hand with PayPal, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, MasterCard and Visa.

As of the third quarter of 2018, Tencent had more than 50% of its revenue from paying commissions, accounting for 44% of the 80 billion yuan. On the other hand, Facebook relies on 98% of advertising revenue. In the future, Facebook needs commercialization and in-app purchases to deliver stable cash flow.

Transformation is hard to add

Considering that people use WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook differently, these changes are unlikely to succeed, so combining them can be complicated. In addition, online payment and e-commerce competitors are ahead of Facebook, and they are unlikely to collaborate. In addition, more and more people are calling for anti-trust legislation to deal with companies that dominate the market.

Although WeChat has become a “textbook” for social media, it is very difficult to subvert and replicate the success model of WeChat. There is an old saying in China that everything is about “time, place, and harmony”, that is, the combination of the right time, the right place, and the right person. WeChat clearly occupies superior conditions.

WeChat launched in 2011 in the world’s largest e-commerce market, targeting a new generation of Internet users with sophisticated digital skills. They can easily “explore” online anytime, anywhere via their mobile phones. China’s vision is to become a global digital leader, so WeChat also has good external support conditions.

5G is close at hand, WeChat may continue to add new features, making its dominant position unshakable. In contrast, Facebook seems to be still in the early stages of development. Faced with various regulatory systems in different regions and countries, especially in terms of digital payment regulations and privacy laws, the challenges are severe.

If this is the future direction of Facebook, then it needs to be tested in different countries and regions, and adjusted according to the needs of different user groups.

Facebook needs to focus on building ecosystems rather than acquiring competitors. Every product developed or every company acquired needs to serve one purpose: to enhance or add new features and useful features of the Facebook ecosystem. Otherwise, it is a waste of money and resources.

Today, small programs have become a core feature of WeChat, but Facebook has no similar features. Therefore, if the goal is to transform Facebook into the basic ecosystem of Western society, Facebook should start developing its own small program version as soon as possible, otherwise it will never catch up with the 5G era.

Facebook must change. It is foreseeable that if Facebook still wants to maintain its position and dominate the market in the future. Then there is a long and difficult road ahead.

Shivam Singh
Founder of the TechGrits, has always looked at technology as a piece of knots. From an early age connected to the technological world, this is literally your dream job.

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