Jakarta - The developers of the popular multi-platform messaging app WeChat have rolled out an e-commerce offering through the app to tap the boom in the number of Indonesians using smartphones and engaging in online transactions.
“We saw the opportunity since three years ago,” Benny Ho, the Hong Kong-based director of business development at Tencent, the Chinese Internet giant behind WeChat, said during a visit to the Globe-Asia offices in Jakarta on Thursday.
WeChat entered an already crowded market for so-called over-the-top messaging apps — which rely on a smartphone’s Internet connection rather than mobile connectivity — in 2012 and as of the third quarter of last year was used by 18 percent of Indonesian smartphone users, according to a GlobalWebIndex survey.
These users, Ho said, are largely young, have money and need entertainment.
Now we want to engage the users even more while promoting many brands,” he said.
To that end, the app WeChat now offers a new feature called Official Account, which provides digital marketing platforms for companies that makes it easy to promote information and services to customers through the application.
Through these features, Ho said, WeChat users can reserve a hotel room, order a take-out meal, sign up for a coupon program, or carry out a financial transaction. Ho said the possibilities were “limitless,” depending on what service a company wanted to provide to its customers.
So far, a number of merchants including online retailers MNC Shop, Lazada, Elevenia, Zamora, Groupon and Belanja.com have adopted the new feature, Ho said.
“The business strategy and the business plan [this year] is to empower businesses [through WeChat],” he said.
He added that WeChat aimed to build an ecosystem that would allow merchants to offer value-added services to users.
Ho said WeChat would not limit its cooperation to only large companies, welcoming even small merchants to open an Official Accounts on the app.
WeChat’s marketing operations in Indonesia are carried out by MNC Tencent, a joint venture between the Chinese company and local conglomerate MNC.
There were 88.1 million Internet users in Indonesia last year, 85 percent of whom went online over their phones, according to the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association, or APJI. Eleven percent of Indonesian Internet users carried out some kind of commercial transaction online last year, double the figure from 2013.
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