Thailand’s number one duty-free chain is using WeChat Mini Programs to meet Chinese tourists. But this decision would bring it access to a much wider audience
Two decades ago, 10.5 million Chinese tourists made overseas trips, in 2018 the figure rose to 149.7 million, a 1326% increase. It is no wonder that retailers are striving to attract this audience.
Thailand’s biggest duty-free chain found the perfect solution to fight the price war betting on customer experience. King Power Duty-Free has thus landed on WeChat, developing its own Mini Program store to cater to visiting Chinese tourists.
With nine stores in the country, King Power International Group has been the sole duty-free store provider at major airports in Thailand, a Southeast Asian tourism destination that attracts more than 38 million visitors a year.
However, although Thailand is a recognized gem among worldwide travelers, over half of its revenues come from Chinese tourists. Therefore, to enhance their experience at the airports, at the beginning of the year, King Power finally joined other travel retailers, such as DFS Group, in creating a WeChat Mini Program store. The only difference is that tourists have to pick up their products at stores in Thailand’s airports.
© JingDaily. In the world of travel retail, setting up a WeChat Mini Program store can make customers’ lives a lot easier.
But how is this improving the customer experience? First, by introducing its Mini Program store in WeChat, King Power has shown dedication to the Chinese customer base. Then, it gives them the chance to browse and choose products without the feeling of rush caused by the flight departure. In this way, the buyers do not even have to deal with lines or with the sold-out inventory at the offline store.
Moreover, not only customers can pay online with WeChat Pay without having to switch currencies but retailers can also market them before they even arrive in the country. This opportunity thus truly gives retailers the chance to provide a better customer experience for the Chinese customer.
“Since duty-free stores tend to sell the same brands and products that other retailers do, they can choose either to compete on price or customer experience. Creating a better customer experience prevents them from having to rely on price wars to survive,” writes Marketing Specialist Ker Zheng, of China cross-border e-commerce solutions provider Azoya Group.
The convenience of WeChat and its all-inclusive ecosystem is partly why Chinese internet users spend a third of their online time in WeChat on a given day.
If WeChat is the most popular social commerce platform in China, boasting over one billion users, its Mini Programs have been taking the Middle Kingdom’s e-commerce industry by storm.
The Mini Programs are actually mini-apps within WeChat’s platform that customers can use without leaving the app. By using them, users can book movie tickets, order food delivery, and buy items online. Therefore, they have become one of the most important channels for retailers to engage with the Chinese audience.
In particular, according to data provider ALDZS, of the 2.3 million Mini Programs on the market, 18% are dedicated to e-commerce. The group-buying platform Pinduoduo, which grew its user base to over 300 million within three years on the back of its wildly successful Mini Program, is one example.
© Wikimedia Commons. King Power Group celebrates Mickey Mouse. Thailand’s top duty-free is one of the few global travel retailers leveraging Wechat Mini Programs.
The recipe for success is a combination made by the ease of accessibility and social sharing features. Customers can discover, browse, and pay for items all without downloading any other app or loading a page on a different browser. In addition, according to data, 35% of users access these items because they are shared by other users.
For brands and stores, it means having all the freedom and independence of a proprietary website while benefitting from WeChat’s massive user base. Moreover, here, they are able to reduce new customer acquisition costs as the social nature of WeChat and Mini Programs means that Chinese consumers are more likely to share e-commerce promotions and items with friends and family.
As mentioned before, the number of Chinese tourists abroad are increasing year after year. Ctrip figures show that nearly 7 million Chinese tourists went overseas during this year’s Chinese New Year. The Shanghai-based online travel agency reported that people from over 100 Chinese cities had booked to travel to nearly 500 destinations across over 90 countries and regions. Moreover, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Chinese tourists overseas spent $277.3 billion in 2018, up from around $10 billion in 2000.
In this scenario, as the perfect cross-border social commerce platform, WeChat represents a powerful tool in helping travel retail players market to and retain outbound Chinese travelers. Thanks to WeChat Mini Program stores, these companies can sell to Chinese tourists both before and after their trip.
The relevance of Daigous and Chinese Key Opinion Leaders show how travel retail is important for brands to be discovered in the Chinese market. Indeed, many of these influencers have built their fan base mainly by blogging reviews of overseas’ products. Trough WeChat, brands and retailers can attract the attention of those Chinese outbound tourists looking for foreign products and then keep that attention alive. WeChat Mini Programs thus acts as both limelight and a cross-border sales channel that makes the purchase experience easier and rewarding.
Indeed, although it can take time to build brand awareness or customer loyalty, engaging with Chinese tourists after they return home can add a substantial amount of value. Moreover, this way, the spread among potential customers in China is ensured by WeChat’s social sharing feature.
© Unsplash. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport. Last year, 10 of the world’s 50 busiest airports and three of the 10 busiest were found in the PRC.
As a result, an increasing number of retailers abroad are starting to enter the Wechat ecosystem to cater to visiting Chinese tourists, just like Thailand’s King Power Duty-Free. Tencent now plans to expand its growing list of merchants in Europe and in all the continents soon.
Its European merchant network was 3.5 times larger in April 2019 than the year before, and the company has recently signed deals with an array of retailers and at destinations that see a high volume of Chinese tourists, including Paris department store Galeries Lafayette Haussmann and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
Here, many offline stores even allow payments with WeChat Pay to meet the Chinese audience, allowing also to pay in Chinese yuan, which can be automatically converted into local currency. Moreover, WeChat GO Mini Program in Europe also allows businesses to be discovered by around 5 million Chinese customers who travel to Europe each year.
If global acceptance for WeChat Pay is one of Tencent’s long-term ambitions for the platform, the use of its whole ecosystem has become a must for international retailers that want to reach the Chinese market. Especially for what concerns those tourists that have a shorter time to spend on shopping.
It is now obvious how using Chinese platforms is crucial to deal with Chinese tourists and King Power Duty-Free got it right. With the developing of its Mini Program not only it eases the shopping experience for Chinese tourists but it now also belongs to that ecosystem that will make the store’s name spread among China’s consumers, building the store’s awareness in the Asian country.