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The Myth of WeChat Store and Weidian

Are you looking to sell your products through eCommerce in China? And you’re looking to use Weidian or “WeChat Store” instead of TMall, Taobao, or JD?

If that is you then listen up because we’re going to expose the truth about Weidian and why everything you may have heard is completely wrong.

Many foreign eCommerce business owners believe that Weidian or “WeChat Store” is the official eCommerce platform of WeChat. Although I can see why they would believe this, after all Weidian and Weixin which is the Chinese name for WeChat both starts with the word Wei which simply means “micro”.

The truth is apart from both Weidian and WeChat starting with the word Wei in Chinese, they’re two completely different things and has a very little relation at all. Weidian was simply clever enough to create a company that sounded similar to WeChat in order to leverage WeChat’s popularity in China.

And, yes, even many Chinese citizens believe Weidian is the same as WeChat Store.

Ok….

Then, what exactly is Weidian and should you use it as your main eCommerce channel in China?

That is a great, question and in this article, we’re going to get in depth about what Weidian is and whether it is the right channel for you to start selling your products to China with.

What is Weidian

Weidian”(微店) actually just stands for “micro store” kind like “微信(Weixin)” which is WeChat in Chinese and it stands for “micro message”. Weidian in and of itself has little to no relation with WeChat.  Sure, it is designed to be mobile focused, so that it will work well with WeChat official accounts, and it accepts WeChat Pay but really that’s about the only relation the two company share.

It is not owned or operated by Tencent, and it is not part of WeChat’s ecosystem. It only sounds like WeChat for marketing purposes. And this is very common in China, in fact, if you ever visit China you’ll see many restaurants that look similar to McDonald and even sounds similar but it is not McDonald.

Weidian is really just an eCommerce platform that allows an average entrepreneur to setup a mobile eCommerce store in hours kind of like Shopify. There are more than half a dozen of other similar platforms in China that does pretty much the exact same thing. Here is are a list of Weidian’s competitors:

  • 微店(Weidian)
  • 微猫(Weimao)
  • 有赞(Youzan)
  • 拍拍小店(Paipai Xiaodian)
  • 微信小店(Weixin Xiaodian)

All above are 3rd party e-commerce platform just like Weidian, and they can all be individually operated without the use of WeChat at all. And as a business owner, you can literally setup an account and store to sell your products on all of these platforms at the same time, although I don’t think anyone is crazy enough to do that.

Demystifying the Idea of WeChat Store

A lot of foreign business and companies believe that WeChat or its parent Tencent provides a function to setup a “WeChat Store”, in fact, there are many articles written about WeChat official accounts claiming the service account supports “WeChat eCommerce” but this is entirely false. WeChat does not support any function that allows users to setup an eCommerce store, it never has, and it probably never will.

The “WeChat Store” people always refer are just standard eCommerce web pages that can be opened in WeChat’s internal browser. Due to the close nature of WeChat’s ecosystem, every link, page, product page, or content opened in WeChat will open within WeChat’s build browser. This is also why most people including people in China believe that WeChat has its own function to start an eCommerce store.

The reality, however, is that literally any web page can be opened and consider to be WeChat store. For example, if you are running an eBay store, and one day you open it with WeChat browser – now you are technically looking at a “WeChat store”.

So, to clarify for those who want to sell through eCommerce in China. WeChat by itself cannot sell anything. It can, however, promote your eCommerce store. This is exactly as if you put your store link on your Facebook business page, and then leverage Facebook 2 billion monthly active users to drive more traffic to your store.

How to Open an Online Store in China?

If you want to sell your products in China using eCommerce as your base than there are only 3 ways.

1) List Your Products on Big E-commerce Platforms

The most common way to sell your products in China is simply listed or co-operate with eCommerce giants such as Taobao, TMall, JD, Amazon China, etc. The challenge, however, is that not all of these platforms will accept your product. For example, in order to get listed with TMall, you must first have a registered business in China and obtain all the proper license to sell your products.

Taobao, on the other hand, is more like eBay as it allows pretty anyone to just setup a store and starts selling right away. However, be very careful before you decided to sell your products on Taobao, as it has a bad reputation for cheap and knockoff products. Many Chinese merchants and vendors are actively trying to stay away from Taobao as it will cheapen their brand.

2) Use 3rd Party eCommerce Builders

The second most common way to setup an eCommerce business in China is to use 3rd part eCommerce builder platforms such as 微店(Weidian), 有赞(Youzan), 拍拍小店(Paipai Xiaodian), etc… All of these platforms provide simple drag and drop store builder as well as an inventory management backend just like Shopify, Magento, and Wix.

Once you have your store setup on either one of these platforms, you can simply link it up with your WeChat Official Account be it Service or Subscription as long as it is localized for China. And if you’re wondering how to setup a WeChat official account check out our article on:

(Most of the Chinese 3rd party micro e-commerce platform provides drag & drop option to instantly make a store, and the other option to fully customize it)

3) Build It Yourself

Lastly, you can always build it all from scratch yourself if you know how to program and you’re up for the challenge. However, unless you have a good reason for building your own eCommerce platform from scratch, there is virtually no reason to as it is extremely time consume, and there are many great solutions available and they’re affordable.

What payment method my store can have?

The most common question we get is “does Weidian support Alipay Global or WeChat Pay?”. Since we’ve already established the fact that Weidian and its counterparts have virtually nothing to do with WeChat itself. The type of payment you can accept is largely going to be based on which 3rd part platforms you choose to use.

Currently, some international platform (e.g. Shopify) only supports Alipay Global whereas Chinese local platform (e.g. Youzan) supports all the popular payment gateways in China such as WeChat Pay, Alipay, and Union Pay. But if you’re planning to use WeChat to drive sales to your eCommerce platform then WeChat Pay is probably going to be the payment gateway you’ll want to focus on.

However, if you decide to implement WeChat Pay own your own custom build eCommerce platform then you’ll need to submit an application to WeChat or an authorized agency. This procedure will usually require you to provide registered business info in China along with a legal Chinese bank account.

For a better understanding of eCommerce Payment methods in China, let’s do an overall comparison among international platform (e.g. eBay), Chinese local platform (e.g. Youzan) and DIY option:

Also, here is a comparison of payment gateway setup between the tree.

Conclusion

Just because Weidian and Weixin(WeChat) both have the Chinese character “Wei” in it, it doesn’t make it any more special than say operating your Shopify store in China. WeChat is just a social media platform in China, a gigantic one but still a social media platform.

Rather than wasting your time believing that if you sell your products on a “WeChat store” you’ll automatically achieve explosive sales, it is better to consider how to market your brand with focus, and target marketing that would actually drive your sales.

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