Why 微信 thrive in China
As an expat based in mainland China since 2015, I've seen firsthand how dominant platforms like WeChat have become indispensable tools for daily life. However, as much as tech companies in the We𝕏t try to replicate this "super app" model, gaining the same popularity and all-encompassing utility remains challenging. There seem to be a few key reasons why WeChat works so well in China, but its counterparts aren't adopted well in Western markets.
In China, WeChat fills a unique niche as an app for everything. It's not just social media - you can also pay bills, hail rides, order food, make reservations, video chat with friends, play games, and more, all from within the same platform. This one-stop-shop convenience and mini-programs create tremendous stickiness for users. Meanwhile, in the West, people tend to compartmentalize different activities into separate best-of-breed apps like WhatsApp, Uber, and Instagram rather than consolidating them all into one.
Culturally, China also emphasizes multi-purpose platforms that allow for stronger networked interactions within large social circles. WeChat facilitates easy group chats and payments between family and friends, which are ingrained aspects of everyday Chinese life. Western nations value individual choice and flexibility more, making users less inclined to fully embrace a singular dominant platform.
From a business perspective, Chinese authorities also limit foreign competition more heavily, giving local giants like WeChat room to dominate without significant competitive pressures. In contrast, Western regulatory environments encourage more choice and contestability between numerous challengers.
So, while tech companies may try, simply copying WeChat's model may not translate to the same level of success in Western markets with their different cultural norms and competitive dynamics. To thrive outside of China, a super app may need a disruptive value proposition that better fits local lifestyles and preferences. I know 𝕏 is aiming to achieve that; good luck to them.
Other local examples: Alipay, Phonepe, Grab, Gojek.