China's got a messaging app that's worth more than Alibaba, its largest ecommerce operation.
In addition to chat and social interactions with brands, users can transact and buy products directly from within the WeChat app.
You're looking at the future of peer to peer payments, and potentially a landmark shift in how people go about purchasing online.
Facebook are already pursuing this with WhatsApp and the ability to buy through Facebook directly (a legacy feature that was ahead of its time but is now ready to shine) is being pushed again.
This shift is bigger than building chatbots, or marketing automation, or even the tech and platforms that deliver the message we're so keen to make sure reaches the eyes and ears of anyone who is willing to give us their attention.
It's about users breaking away from the established order of online advertising. WeChat is cutting out the middleman and letting users pay direct from their chat app, relying less on ad revenue than established players: that's a model Facebook would very much like to snap up and Google will be clamouring to get on board with.
Given the increasing propensity for mobile device users to be "locked in" to platforms (90% app usage vs 10% mobile web usage, source), the model of operating within native apps adds substantial weight to the concept of engaging with your users where they feel most comfortably connected.
Court your user where they choose to spend their (ever-increasing) digital time. Your conversation and storytelling is done increasingly on their terms rather than yours.
Not so much in China. The country lacked a comparable retail infrastructure, and the growing middle class didn’t have easy access to many retail options. The main problem to solve was enabling people to spend money and buy stuff. Fortunately, they had the mobile Internet from the start and no legacy system in their way. China’s Internet ecosystem leapfrogged the established patterns of the western world.