A customer journey is the complete set of experiences, the process, that customers go through when interacting with your company in order to achieve a goal. While in the West this journey takes place across a number of channels, in China, the all-in-one super app WeChat enables brands to guide consumers through all the phases of the customer journey, from awareness to decision, to advocacy, all within the WeChat ecosystem.
For anyone who has worked on mapping or building out customer journeys in the West, I know your jaw is dropping right now. Yes, you read correctly, the entire journey can take place on one platform, and in this article we will explain why and how.
But first, for those of you that need more context around a customer journey:
Why are Customer Journeys Important?
As I mentioned above, customers typically go through a complete set of experiences before they purchase your product. Long gone are the simple days where consumers only had access to a finite number of touchpoints. In our digital age, there are hundreds of ways people interact with businesses every day.
What’s more, each individual’s interactions take place in different ways, at different times, in a different order, on different media, with different technologies. Touchpoints exist online and offline, in private and in public. From social media, paid ads, email marketing, talking to a service agent on the phone, and returning an item in the store.
While it’s impossible to shape every interaction people have with your brand, companies can use existing customer data to predict and map out the possible paths that their customers may take. By mapping out customer journeys for each of your target customer personas, you can understand which touchpoints are leading consumers to the next stage in the journey and which are failing to do so (or maybe even turning customers away) and then adjust your content and offerings accordingly.
When journeys are designed correctly, meaning they are able to deliver highly valuable and relevant content to the consumer during each stage, they are shown to have a direct impact on sales and revenue.
The Benefit of Building Journeys in China
In the West customer journeys will almost always include several completely isolated touchpoints on different channels with no overlapping data. This makes it very difficult for brands to guide consumers along a journey or even understand every step the consumer took.
Not to say this issue doesn’t exist in China, with numerous social media platforms, e-commerce platforms, and brick-and-mortar stores it most certainly does, but, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, with the incredible multi-functionality of WeChat brands can create the opportunity for consumers to go through all the phases of the customer journey, from awareness to decision, to advocacy, all within the WeChat ecosystem.
That’s right - by building out customer journeys on WeChat, you can centralize consumer touchpoints onto one platform with shared data, which is vastly unlike anything available in the West.
Let’s take a look at WeChat’s features to see how this is possible.
WeChat Has Become an Operating System
While WeChat started off as a chat app, it has transformed into an operating system for Chinese people’s daily lives. The core features: WeChat Official Accounts, WeChat Mini Programs, Tencent Ads in WeChat Moments, and WeChat Pay allow brands to essentially take their entire Western digital marketing strategy and put it onto WeChat.
- Official Accounts are essentially your website, your home base for people to follow you and find key information about your brand, your products, and your services. Through your Official Service Account you are able to send out broadcast messages and template message notifications, which essentially take the place of your email marketing. What's more, your customer service conversations can all take place on WeChat due to the ability to chat one-on-one with consumers through your Official Account.
- Mini Programs (light apps within WeChat) replace your standalone apps and are used for e-commerce, appointment booking, and loyalty programs.
- Advertisements in the WeChat Moments feed serve the same purpose as Google, Facebook, or Instagram ads.
- WeChat Pay allows consumers to seamlessly complete transactions in one click. What’s more, it is a connector between online and offline experiences. If a consumer purchases a product in a brands’ offline store using WeChat Pay, this will be synced with their data and will affect the information they receive from the brand online.
What’s more, WeChat Official Service Accounts have a built in feature called a 48-hour journey which helps brands immediately funnel new followers into their customer journeys.
During the first 48 hours after someone follows the account, the brand can send that user an unlimited number of messages and content. What’s more, this series of messages can be customized depending on how that person entered the account (for example, scanning a QR code at a store vs entering through an article shared by a friend) or based on whether they are a customer or loyalty member.
The responses and engagement with this series of messages help the brand tag the user, group them, and know which customer journey to send them on.
WeChat-Centric Customer Journey Examples
To get a better grasp of how this would work, here are two example customer journeys for “XYZ” luxury jewelry brand:
While Lee and John are males of similar ages, the journeys they take are quite different as Lee is a new customer and John is a returning customer.
How To Get Started Creating A Journey on WeChat
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of the opportunity to build out amazing customer journeys all on one platform… how to get started?
For brands at the early stages of building out customer journeys in China, it is very easy to become overwhelmed thinking that you need to build out multiple complex journeys all at once, but really it's more important to just start somewhere and continue building on top of it.
The best way to do this is to first get clear on your goals for WeChat and build out journeys that support those goals.
It may also be helpful to do research or work with an agency to get a deeper understanding of all the possible touch points on WeChat, their benefits and limitations, and how your target consumers may interact with those touch points.
Then see where you might be able to take pre-existing assets or journey content created for western customers and adapt it to the Chinese audience. While it is true that a journey built for a consumer in the U.S. cannot be simply copy-pasted into the China market, oftentimes target persona behaviors in the West will have some overlap with their Chinese counterparts, meaning that brands are able to repurpose elements of existing journeys.
To optimize your journeys, it is also important to take advantage of software tools such as Chatly which can help you deliver personalized engagement at scale.
- Mapping out customer journeys for each of your target customer personas allows you to understand which touchpoints are leading consumers to the next stage in the journey and which are failing to do so and then adjust your content and offerings accordingly.
- When journeys are designed correctly, they are shown to have a direct impact on sales and revenue.
- Marketers in China have a huge advantage because they can build customer journeys that take place from start to finish entirely on one platform.
- Don’t let the journey building process get bottlenecked by thinking you have to create entirely new content, after doing research to understand WeChat’s features and your target audience’s behaviors, see how you can adapt Western journeys to the WeChat ecosystem.