Ultimate Guide

WeChat Official Account: The WeChat Business Ultimate Guide [Dec 2022]

Iaroslav Kudritskiy
Chief Operating Officer, Respond.io
December 7, 2022
The Ultimate Guide to WeChat for Business: WeChat business accounts

If you want to create a business presence in China, you’re probably wondering how to use WeChat Business. This article will cover the differences between a WeChat Subscription Account and WeChat Service Account, how to create WeChat Official Account and the WeChat Official Account verification process.

What is WeChat?

At first glance, WeChat looks a lot like WhatsApp. But WeChat is more than just a messaging app. It’s a do-everything app that lets you send money, read articles, and even apply for loans! Here’s a brief introduction before we get into the features.

Developed by Chinese conglomerate Tencent, Weixin (微信) was launched in China in January 2011. By 2012, its number of users reached 100 million. In the same year, Weixin was renamed WeChat for the international market. Nowadays, the platform is available in 17 languages.

This is a picture of the 4 main panels of wechatChats and Contacts are what you would expect, containing your conversations and friends on WeChat. Interestingly, the Contacts panel has rather advanced organizational features including folders and tags. Discover holds all the random WeChat features that don’t fit into any other panel. Last but not least, the Me panel is where users have access to personal items like settings, stickers and their profile. The Me panel also holds WeChat Pay.
The four main WeChat tabs

WeChat has four main tabs. Chats and Contacts are what you would expect, containing your conversations and friends on WeChat. Interestingly, the Contacts tab has rather advanced organizational features including folders and tags.

The Discover tab holds a selection of entertainment and activity options like games or Mini Programs. Last but not least, the Me tab is where users have access to personal items like their settings, stickers and profile. Next, we’ll introduce you to WeChat’s popularity around the globe.

Where is WeChat Popular?

WeChat is the most popular chat app in China. Over the past few years, the app has seen tremendous growth in the number of global users. In 2012, WeChat had 50 million monthly active users; that number has skyrocketed to 1.31 billion in 2022.

Around 79% of China's population uses WeChat and it hasn’t had any competitors until recently. However, WeChat is unlikely to lose its crown because its features power the interactions of everyday life.

This is a map of the countries where WeChat has seen the fastest user growth. So where is WeChat popular? WeChat has always dominated the Chinese market. WeChat is also seeing success in countries like Botswana, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. However, even in countries where WeChat does not have significant market share, it is extremely popular amongst the Chinese diaspora. Read on to find out why is WeChat so popular in China and and why is WeChat so popular in other countries.
A map showing where is WeChat popular

Before, we mentioned how WeChat is a mega app with plenty of functionalities. Let’s dive into some of the most popular WeChat features, starting with WeChat’s digital wallet.

WeChat Pay

WeChat Pay is WeChat’s in-app digital wallet. When this feature was introduced in 2016, WeChat already had 430 million users, many of whom adopted it quickly as a payment method. Five years later, WeChat Pay has doubled this figure with 900 million users.

Convenience is another reason behind WeChat Pay’s success. Upon registering their bank account details, users can easily make person-to-person transactions, pay bills and pay for purchases inside the app or at physical stores that support WeChat Pay.

WeChat Pay Interface with QR Censored
WeChat Pay interface with QR code censored

To enable in-store payments, customers scan or display their QR codes. The simplicity and cost-effectiveness for businesses to use QR codes rather than expensive payment terminals have made WeChat Pay wildly popular in physical stores and online.

WeChat Pay is one of the most common payment methods in China, but it’s also used overseas. In fact, it supports 13 different currencies in 25 countries and regions such as US, UK, Australia and Hong Kong.

WeChat Mini-Programs

Mini Programs are “mini-applications” built within the WeChat platform with endless functionalities: e-commerce, membership cards, games, bike rentals,etc. Businesses that run campaigns via Mini Programs can also issue coupons that users redeem to get discounts on purchases inside the app.

This is a picture of the screenshots of WeChat Mini Programs. Mini Programs are apps within WeChat, making WeChat more than just a messaging platform. The functionalities of Mini-Programs are endless including e-commerce, coupons, membership cards, games, rentals, AI fortune-telling and more.
Mini-Programs from WeChat users’ perspective

Businesses like yours use WeChat as a customer messaging channel. But first, you need to know which WeChat business account best suits your needs.

WeChat Business Accounts

If you’re looking for a WeChat Business Account, you have three WeChat Official Accounts to choose from WeChat Subscription Account, WeChat Service Account and WeChat Work.

This image shows the two types of Weixin Official Account: WeChat Subscription Accounts and WeChat Service Account. Read our article to find out how to create WeChat Official Account.
Types of 0fficial WeChat account

Similar to Slack or Google Chat, WeChat Work is used for internal company messaging. Meanwhile, WeChat Subscription Accounts and WeChat Service Accounts are used for customer communication.

WeChat Business: Subscription and Service Accounts

WeChat users who follow Subscription and Service Accounts can receive push notifications from them and engage in one-on-one conversations.

This image shows a comparison between the two types of WeChat public account: WeChat Subscription Account vs WeChat Service Account. Read our blog to learn more about how to set up WeChat Official Account.
WeChat Subscription Account vs WeChat Service Account

But the similarities end there since these two account types are intended for different use cases. Let’s explore them in detail.

WeChat Business: WeChat Subscription Account

Subscription Accounts are only available for companies registered in China and are designed for media, influencers and organizations. Because their focus is on information and brand communication, subscription accounts are allowed to send one WeChat push message per day to their followers.

This image shows the uses of WeChat subscription account. Read our article and learn how to create an official account on WeChat.
WeChat for business - WeChat Subscription Account

However, Subscription Accounts don’t support API access, which is limiting for businesses that handle high volumes of messages or want to connect customer communication channels with their CRMs or other third-party applications.

To sum up, they are not the optimal choice for businesses looking to market, sell and support on WeChat.

WeChat Business: WeChat Service Account

WeChat Service Accounts were designed with customer service in mind. Since they support API access, businesses can connect them to a CRM. But they are suitable for sales too— verified service account owners can open a WeChat Store and enable WeChat Pay.

The only downside is WeChat Service Account owners are only allowed to send four push notifications per month to their followers.

This image shows what WeChat service accounts can do for your business. After create WeChat Official Account, businesses can do WeChat Official Account marketing, sales and support. If you are a medium or large size business and you want to use WeChat for customer communication, start by understanding the difference between WeChat public account vs official account. More information in this article.
What businesses can do with a WeChat Service Account

Lastly, businesses can create a WeChat Official Account overseas and it will be visible to mainland China users. Now that you know which type of account is for you, we’ll help you choose a messaging inbox that fits your business needs.

Types of WeChat Business Messaging Inboxes

There are two ways you can message your customers on the channel: Through the WeChat Official Account inbox or a business messaging platform connected to the WeChat account via Messaging API.

The WeChat Official Account inbox is free and supports up to 100 agents with customizable profiles. However, there are no tools to assign inbound conversations to agents, who must pick them manually as they come in.

In terms of contact management tools, tags are all this inbox offers. And while you can set up three types of WeChat auto reply, it lacks an advanced automation builder. The WeChat Official Account Inbox also features an analytics dashboard, but there isn’t a way to filter analytics by agent or team.

Types of inboxes for WeChat - WeChat platform vs respond.io

As a medium or large size business that handles high volumes of conversations each month, you should connect your WeChat Service Account to a feature-rich messaging inbox like respond.io.

You’ll gain improved multi-user support, powerful automation, integrations with CRMs and other software, and both granular and long-term performance analytics to monitor and improve your individual agents' or teams’ efficiency.

This doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to the WeChat Official Account inbox, as you’ll be able to switch between both inboxes freely. You don’t have a WeChat Service Account yet? No problem. In the next section, we’ll show you how you can apply for one.

How to Create WeChat Official Account

To create a WeChat Service Account, head to the WeChat Official Account Platform on your desktop and click Register now at the top. We recommend doing it from a desktop since the website is not optimized for mobile use.

This image shows how to set up a business WeChat account. Start by clicking on Register now on the WeChat Official Account Platform and then follow the steps indicated in this blog post.
How to set up WeChat Official account - WeChat Official Account platform

1. Select Service Account. The account type cannot be changed after creation.

Account application step 1
WeChat Official Account application - Account type selection

2. Create a user account. Provide a secure email address as this will be used to access the admin panel. The email must not be linked to an existing WeChat Business Account. Enter the verification code sent to your email.

Enter personal details
WeChat Official Account application - Create a user account

3. Select your country. The legal documents required are slightly different depending on the country where the company is registered.

Select your country, for example: WeChat Official Account Singapore
WeChat Official Account application - Country selection

4. Submit the identification information of the company and the account admin. This includes:

  • Your company’s officially-registered name and registration number
  • The account operator's name, mobile phone number, and passport ID number
Submit identification information
WeChat Official Account application - Identification information

5. Choose an account name and provide a description. Create the account name. Add a short description of the account, and you are good to go.

To create an official account you'll need to chose an account name. This will become your WeChat account id so choose wisely, and a short description for your account.
WeChat Official Account application - Account information

That's it! You've created a WeChat Official Account. Once you're logged into the WeChat Official Accounts Platform, you’ll receive the following notification.

You won't be able to send any broadcasts from you're WeChat Official Account until you verify it.
WeChat Official Account application - Verification required notification

Unverified accounts don’t have access to advanced features like sending push notifications, creating Mini-Programs or using WeChat Pay. More importantly, they’ll be canceled after 30 days.

To use your account to the full extent, you’ll have to get it verified. In addition, you should understand how messaging works on WeChat business accounts to communicate with customers effectively and avoid getting banned.

WeChat Official Account: Best Practices

Now that you have a WeChat Official Account, here are some best practices to make the most of your account. For a start, we’ll guide you through the steps to get your WeChat Official Account verified.

You’ll also find valuable info on how customers can find your WeChat Official Account and how you can message your customers with WeChat.

WeChat Official Account Verification

Setting up a WeChat Official Account is free, but official account verification costs money. Businesses also need to provide documentation. The process is rather cumbersome. Thankfully, we are here to guide you every step of the way.

1. Input additional company info. This includes the following:

  • Company registration number, office address and office phone number
  • Scope of business (description of business activities)
  • Bank name of company bank account
  • Bank account number
  • Names of the company’s legal representatives (company directors’ names)
To verify you're WeChat Official Account you need to provide the following information: Company registration number Company office address Company office phone number Scope of business (description of business activities) Bank name of company bank account Bank account number Names of companies legal representatives (company directors names)
Verify a WeChat Official Account - Additional company information

2. Validate your personal information. The verification staff will contact you personally when going over the documents. Businesses will need to provide:

  • Contact’s full name
  • Mobile Phone number
  • Verify with SMS
  • Email address
  • Landline phone number
  • Passport number
To verify your WeChat Official Account you need to provide the following information for the companies contact person: Contact’s full name Mobile Phone number Verify with SMS Email address Land line phone number Passport number
Verify a WeChat Official Account - Contact person information

3. Upload supporting documents. Provide supporting documentation for all the information you have submitted. Make sure to scan the documents in color before uploading them. The documents needed are:

  • Business License
  • An official application letter which can be downloaded from the system, but needs to be filled out, signed and stamped
  • Contact’s mobile phone statement with your name, phone number and payment history for the past 3 months
  • Contact’s ID/passport/driving license copies. Provide front and back copies if you choose to submit your contact ID or driving license. If you are submitting your passport instead, provide two copies of your passport’s information page.
To verify your WeChat Official Account you'll need to scan and upload the following documents Business license Official application letter which can be downloaded from the system, but needs to be filled out, signed & stamped Contact’s mobile phone statement/bill which lists his/her name, phone number and payment history in past 3 months Contact’s ID/Passport/Driving license copies, twice if it’s the same
Verify a WeChat Official Account - upload documents

4. Reserve your official account name. At this stage, businesses will need to decide their account display name. Account display names can only be changed by submitting a different name with the annual verification process.

If the brand name is trademarked, select the trademark option and upload the relevant documentation. News agencies should use the media name option and upload their broadcast license.

For other businesses, we recommend selecting the optional vocabulary option, which doesn’t involve additional documentation.

To verify your Official Account you'll need to select a display name. We recommend using optional vocabulary because no additional documentation is needed. If your brand name is trademarked, use the trademark option and upload the relevant documentation. If you're a news agency, use the media name option and upload your broadcast license.
Verify a WeChat Official Account - chose a display name

5. Pay the fee. Pay the WeChat Official Account fee of USD99 or RMB300 depending on the business location. You’ll have to incur this cost with every annual verification. The fee is not refundable even if the application is rejected.

Once completed, you'll receive a call from a third-party agency in 5 to 10 business days. Our agency was located in Chengdu. Their English was good and they helped us to revise our application. Now that you have completed your WeChat Official Account setup, it's time to learn how to use it.

WeChat Business: How Customers Find Your WeChat Official Account

Most messaging apps require users to message businesses first in order to open conversations. WeChat accounts can’t import contacts and can only message contacts who have sent the first message. However, you can send push notifications en-masse to users who follow your WeChat official account.

This is a picture showing the ways to find your customers on WeChat. Most messaging apps require users to message businesses first in order to open conversations. This is also true for WeChat, however, if users follow your WeChat Official Account you’ll be able to broadcast but not send an individual message. WeChat has a few helpful features to get your customers to follow you and start a conversation. These include QR codes and in-app search.
Ways to start a chat on WeChat Official Account

WeChat has two helpful features to get your customers to follow your Service Account and start a conversation: WeChat QR codes and in-app searches.

WeChat Business: QR Codes

In addition to facilitating payments via WeChat Pay, QR codes can convert offline traffic like foot traffic in a store to WeChat Official Account followers. QR codes can also be used on a website or in emails you send to customers to offer them a way to chat with you.

Since the QR code only works if users have the WeChat app installed on their phones, it’s recommended to put a WeChat logo somewhere next to the code. This will indicate that it’s an app-specific QR code.

This is a picture of the QR code of a WeChat Official Account. QR codes can convert offline traffic like foot traffic in a store to WeChat Official Account followers. QR codes can also be used on a website or in emails you send to customers. A WeChat Official Account QR code can be found on the WeChat Official Accounts platform. Since the QR Code only works if users have the WeChat app installed on their phones. It’s important to put a WeChat logo somewhere next to the QR code. The QR code created by the WeChat official accounts platform already the WeChat logo included.
QR Code for a WeChat Official Account

On the WeChat Official Account inbox, users can generate and download QR codes. If you have a respond.io account, you can add a WeChat QR code to your website chat widget.

While WeChat doesn’t support click-to-chat links the way messaging channels like Telegram or Facebook Messenger do, users can look for your WeChat Official Account via the in-app search.

WeChat Business: In-app Search

Most messaging apps like LINE require users to enter a business account name to find them in the app. However, WeChat users can also search for official accounts by a keyword in the business description in addition to the display name.

This is a picture consisting several screenshots of WeChat in-app search. Most messaging apps like LINE require users to enter business account name to do an in-app search. However on WeChat users can also search official accounts by a keyword in the description in addition to display name. Businesses with a Chinese display name can include their English name in the short description, increasing their chance of being discovered. Now that you know how to find your customers on WeChat, time to start messaging them.
Finding a WeChat Official Account With In-App Search

Businesses with a Chinese display name can include their English name in the short description, increasing their chance of being discovered outside China. Now that you know how to find your customers on WeChat, it’s time to start messaging them.

How to Message Customers Using a WeChat Official Account

Messaging channels like WeChat generally have different messaging rules for business accounts and personal accounts. Hence, even if you’re used to chatting with family and friends on WeChat, you’ll need to play by a new set of rules when messaging customers with a WeChat Official Account.

WeChat Business: 1:1 Messaging

When it comes to 1:1 messaging, businesses should look out for messaging windows and read receipts. WeChat Official Accounts have a messaging window and they don’t provide read receipts.

This is a picture that outlines the characteristics of 1 to 1 messaging on Official Account. When it comes to 1:1  messaging, the two things to look for are messaging window and send/read receipts. Official Accounts are less optimal than other messaging apps as they have a messaging window and they don’t provide send/read receipts. Messaging windows are popular for messaging app business accounts. They block businesses from responding a period of time after users sent a message to prevent spamming. Official Accounts have a messaging window of 48 hours.  The message status is not provided either in the Official Accounts platform or the API. Some messaging app business accounts will mark the messages sent by customers as read automatically. Messages sent to your Official Account will not be marked as delivered or seen.
Characteristics of 1-to-1 messaging on WeChat Official Account

Messaging windows are popular in business messaging. They limit the amount of time businesses have to chat with customers in order to prevent spamming. WeChat Official Accounts have a messaging window of 48 hours.

WeChat Business: Broadcast Messaging

Once you’ve got 1:1 messaging figured out, you can start exploring broadcast messaging. WeChat broadcasts are not very conventional. In fact, WeChat refers to them as push messages, but they look more like newsletters.

From the WeChat Official Account inbox, users can customize broadcasts including adding rich content, creating a broadcast with an HTML editor or even broadcasting Mini Programs. WeChat users can like, comment and share broadcasts on WeChat and other platforms.

This is a picture that describes the characteristics of broadcast messaging on WeChat Official Account. Since WeChat contacts cannot be imported, you’ll need to get your customers to follow your first before you can send them a broadcast. Most messaging apps only allow text and images in their broadcasts but you can create rich content for WeChat. On WeChat Official Account Platform you can write a broadcast message with an HTML editor and even include a Mini Program in it! If you are new to WeChat Official Account Admin Platform, you are probably wondering how to post In my WeChat Official Account. Read on to find out how to make the best out of your WeChat Official Account.
Characteristics of broadcast messaging on WeChat Official Account

WeChat permits businesses to broadcast all types of content, as long as it complies with WeChat’s Acceptable Use Policy. This includes promotional messaging like sales messages, coupons and discounts. Do note that contacts might unfollow or block you if they find your messages irrelevant or annoying.

WeChat broadcasts can only be sent through the WeChat Official Account inbox. WeChat doesn’t place limitations on the number of recipients per broadcast, but you’ll need to get customers to follow you first before you can broadcast to them.

Creating a Post to Broadcast on the Official Accounts Platform
Creating a broadcast with HTML builder on the WeChat Official Accounts platform

With the WeChat Official Account platform, you can target users based on tag, gender or country. As you can only send four broadcasts per month, consider if targeted broadcasts are the right strategy as they reach fewer customers. Also, note that unused broadcasts will not be carried forward to the next month.

WeChat Business: Group Messaging

Many companies are using messaging apps for sales by creating groups with salespeople and relevant customers. Although effective, these chats pose a problem for companies as there is no record of them in company CRMs.

Many companies are using messaging apps for sales by creating groups with salespeople and customers. Although effective, these chats pose a problem for companies as there is no record on them in company CRMs. One way to deal with this would be to add a WeChat Official Account into the group chat, so the conversation could be recorded in your messaging CRM. We’ve tested this out, but unfortunately, WeChat Official Accounts cannot be added to group chats.
WeChat Official Accounts cannot join groups

One way to deal with this would be to connect your CRM and group chat to a business messaging platform. We’ve tested this out, but unfortunately, WeChat Official Accounts cannot be added to group chats.

Should You Use WeChat for Business?

Businesses operating in any of WeChat’s key markets should definitely consider using WeChat for sales and support.

If you are a small business that doesn't receive many daily inquiries or require advanced features, the WeChat Official Account inbox might be sufficient. If most of your customers are exclusively WeChat users, there’s no need for an omnichannel inbox.

But if you are an enterprise or SME or are juggling chats on several channels, connect your WeChat Official account to respond.io for an omnichannel inbox rich in advanced features and tools for every stage of the customer journey.

You can even integrate WeChat with your CRMs on respond.io to qualify leads, create deals or tickets and more while chatting with customers. If you’re unsure about what to do, or if this article has raised new questions, talk to our support team.

Further Reading

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