WeChat is the Key to Digital Transformation in the Chinese Financial Services Industry
In today’s connected world, it is imperative for financial services firms to embrace digital transformation in order to engage with modern consumers. Yet with decades of complexity and an intense regulatory environment, this is a monumental task.
What’s more, there is not a one-size fits all solution for digital transformation, and the means of executing this concept vary depending on the region of the world in which it is taking place.
When discussing digital transformation in the mobile-first market of China, there is no avoiding WeChat. This multi-functional super app accounts for 34% of total mobile data traffic in China and over half of its 1.3 billion monthly active users spend more than 90 minutes on the platform every day.
Many of the country’s largest banking institutions operate WeChat Official Accounts and mini programs for personal finance, and the WeChat platform itself offers mobile payments, insurance, and micro-financing.
At the recent “Delivering Digital Transformation on WeChat” event in Hong Kong, speakers from Salesforce, Tencent, Chatly, and Gain Capital dove into this topic, sharing how financial services firms can leverage WeChat to reach Chinese consumers around the world.
Speakers from left: Andrew Lai, Tencent; Jeff Fish, Chatly; Lauren Hallanan, Chatly; Kristian Evans, Salesforce
Consumer Expectations Have Changed
To kick off the event and set the stage, Kristian Evans, Strategic Accounts at Salesforce in Hong Kong, described how consumer expectations have changed in recent years, “Money is emotional, confusing, sometimes it can be scary. Today, customers expect their financial institutions to deliver trust, transparency, and convenience.”
He explained that banks are no longer just competing against one another or fintechs; they’re competing against any company that is providing a convenient user experience that builds loyalty. Customer experience is now the differentiating product for B2C companies including banks.
He went on to share what Salesforce has deemed the three tenets of great experiences for today’s customers:
Customers don’t see distinct departments like sales and service. They see one organization and expect companies to act as such. They expect to be able to pick up their phone (or laptop, or tablet, or to walk into a store) and have the same level of capabilities, records of their existing relationship with the company, and an overall contextualized experience.
When we log into our social feeds and find content tailored just to our tastes, or when we walk to the corner café and the counterperson knows our order, that makes us feel special and recognized. In our minds, if we have to repeat ourselves or describe what we want, we think that the company is lazy.
We, as a society, don’t like to “wait” anymore. When a random question pops up during the day, we know that we can pull up Google and have an answer to pretty much anything in about ten seconds. Why should we wait on hold for a service agent or drive around to multiple stores looking for what we want now?
Decades of Complexity are Slowing Transformation
Evans shared that the main thing holding financial services firms back from innovation is complexity.
“Multiple core systems across different lines of business, complex 'brittle' integrations and business silos have created redundancy and a fractured view of your customers. It makes delivering trust, transparency, and convenience difficult,” he said.
During a fireside chat discussion with Reiko Kwok, Vice President of Marketing in Asia Pacific for GAIN Capital, she also cited complexity as a challenge, “Digital transformation is not just a matter of cosmetic change, but also requires a change to back-end operations to support it. Applying new technology into our services and products adds complexities to planning, designing, development and marketing, from both business and technological standpoints. Technology is not a silver bullet; creating synergies with internal and external partners matters.”
Additional obstacles for financial firms include strategy localization as well as data protection and compliance.
WeChat is an End-to-End Solution:
All parties agreed that financial institutions undergoing digital transformation in the Chinese market must focus on WeChat. Not a digital strategy, not a mobile-first strategy, but a WeChat strategy.
Why’s that? Kwok explained, “Taking a step back and looking at a bigger picture, you may find that, in Western countries, brand presence is fragmented on multiple platforms – website, app, and SMS notifications – each with a specific purpose to reach to different customers. While in China, this can all be done within WeChat leveraging WeChat Official Accounts, H5 mini-sites, as well as mini programs.”
Reiko Kwok, Vice President of Marketing in Asia Pacific for GAIN Capital, shared how GAIN is approaching digital transformation in China
She went on, “Containing users within the same app and mobile environment makes it easier to capture their attention. Furthermore, people tend to rely on things that integrate diversified offerings together. That’s why WeChat’s multi-functional infrastructure sets it apart from the crowd. It may seem mind-boggling for those non-active WeChat users to understand that marketing, customer service, sales, and e-commerce can all be run through one platform but that’s truly how multi-functional WeChat is.”
Case Study: TD Ameritrade
During the event, Jeff Fish, Co-CEO of Chatly, used a case study from Western brokerage firm TD Ameritrade which illustrating the point that firms can deliver a comprehensive suite of financial services and manage the entire customer engagement cycle through WeChat.
TDA account users can (from left to right): take gamified educational courses to brush up on their financial industry knowledge, apply for a TDA account, get their questions answered instantaneously by a TDA chatbot
- TDA has automated its Official Account marketing with targeted customer journeys that capture consumers’ attention from the moment they follow the account
- Gamified educational mini programs keep consumers engaged, thereby increasing retention rates, and lead them down the sales funnel by increasing their interest and knowledge of financial products
- Users can show off their achievements to their friends on WeChat Moments with a shareable mini program poster
- TDA aims to decrease the amount of unfollows by educating new followers on the purpose and benefits of the account right from the get-go
- They are able to provide nearly instantaneous customer service with bot driven engagements accounting for 60% of all communications
- More difficult inquires will be taken care of with advanced chat routing that redirects users to live agent support
- Consumers can apply for a TDA account and book an appointment at a local branch using WeChat mini programs
- New UI was created to fit the WeChat model and allow Chinese customers to easily find and navigate TDA’s WeChat mini programs from the Official Account
Using a combination of Official Service Account + multiple linked mini programs, TDA has been able to pull all customer interactions into the WeChat ecosystem.
WeChat Work Serves as the Intermediary:
Andrew Lai, Business Development Director at Tencent, explained the importance of incorporating WeChat Work into a financial firm’s digital strategy.
In many industries in China, employees use their personal WeChat accounts to engage with sales leads, however, in the financial services industry, this would cause major security and data privacy issues. On top of that, consumers would be unlikely to share information with a personal WeChat Account, since they are unable to verify that the person works for said financial firm.
WeChat Work solves these problems. WeChat and WeChat Work are integrated, meaning that when an employee engages a prospect using WeChat Work, the prospect can chat with the employee on WeChat just the same as they would with any regular WeChat user. However, unlike a regular WeChat user, the WeChat Work account profile will be verified with the name of the company they work for.
Middle: The WeChat Work user’s company name appears under their name. Right: Their account profile shows that they are a verified company employee.
WeChat Work essentially serves as the intermediary between the financial institution and regular WeChat user, providing an official identity and clear brand recognition yet with a native IM experience.
On top of that, WeChat work provides numerous other enterprise features such as third-party apps, and CRM integration capabilities. And a key feature specifically for financial institutions, and exclusive to WeChat Work, is the ability to archive chat records, allowing firms to comply with financial regulations.
Centralize and Simplify
While the process of digital transformation is still undoubtedly complex, reaching the Chinese consumer may be easier than expected. Instead of dealing with a fragmented set of touchpoints across multiple platform, firms can take advantage of the popularity of WeChat combined with the rich functionality of the platform to bring their entire customer lifecycle within the WeChat ecosystem.
Kwok summed it up nicely when sharing GAIN Capital’s China strategy, “Ultimately, WeChat, Salesforce, and WeChat Work create a loop to manifest our value proposition of customer centricity – helping us reach customers in any stage of the customer lifecycle including awareness, acquisition, onboarding, engagement, advocacy and retention, and helping to guide them to the next stage.”