While the focus has been on its great rival Alibaba, there is growing evidence that Tencent is ramping up its Australian presence. Most recently, it hosted events to educate local businesses on the opportunity to connect with Chinese tourists and businesses via its WeChat platform — the first time it has done so.
WeChat is China’s largest social media app, with 980 million monthly active users. According to Gartner analyst CK Lu, there are already four million WeChat users in Australia. Yes, four million!
The app has evolved beyond messaging, and the platform has functions that integrate social, banking/payments, ecommerce, entertainment, dining, city services, utility services, transportation and healthcare.
Unlike Alibaba, which opened an office in Melbourne earlier this year, Shenzhen-based Tencent is more discreet about its presence in the Australian market.
Lionel Sim, Global Senior Marketing Manager at Tencent, was reticent to discuss its Australian outreach, telling Which-50 via email that Tencent does “not share details about our status in local markets”.
Which-50 has learned that in the last month the company held its first WeChat Connect conferences in both Sydney and Melbourne to “showcase the WeChat ecosystem and platform capabilities to Australian private and public sector”.
According to the WeChat event description, the conference was designed to educate businesses on how to use the WeChat platform to “better connect and create value for Chinese travelers coming to Australia”.
“We will demonstrate innovative use cases of WeChat Mini Programs and also present WeChat Pay unique functionalities which make it the leading social ecommerce solution for local merchants serving the Chinese Tourist Market,” the event page says.
It’s a big opportunity: 1.2 million people from mainland China visited Australia last year, spending just under $10 billion. And some Australian brands are already seizing that opportunity.
For instance, Tourism Australia — which has 500,000 WeChat followers — unveiled a pilot tourism guide with WeChat at the conference. The guide provides Chinese visitors with information on local tourist attractions, restaurants, and retailers on the platform.
Other Australian businesses — like Westfield Australia, David Jones, and Qantas — have their own official WeChat accounts to build brand awareness and manage customer loyalty.
Gartner recently named Tencent the most disruptive digital company in Asia Pacific based on its reach and the richness of its services.
“WeChat is fully rooted in users’ 24-hour scenario. In an average day, Chinese users can make a doctor’s appointment, pay utility bills, file a police report, book a flight, hail a taxi or rent a bicycle, all from within the WeChat app,” the analysts wrote.