Despite frequent criticism that it is not capable of running its e-commerce business, Tencent has made some progress recently.
The company, which is a prominent investor in Pinduoduo and JD.com, has launched a social e-commerce app called Xiao’e Pinpin, one year after going live with a namesake mini program on WeChat, 36Kr reported on Monday.
The app has removed the shopping cart feature, prompting buyers to purchase staples such as toilet paper, t-shirts, and cosmetics directly, using a model similar to Pinduoduo’s.
The app also allows its users to form groups to buy products at a discount and encourages them to select from a channel called Pengyou Xihuan, which means “friends like” and features recommendations from WeChat users. People in this channel, however, are currently not necessarily WeChat friends of the app user, KrASIA found.
Earlier this year, the internet giant further launched Tencent Huiju, a centralized e-commerce portal within WeChat that aggregates third-party mini programs developed by retailers and service providers ranging from MissFresh to McDonald’s.
In addition to this one-stop marketplace, WeChat also rolled out a new marketing feature called Wode Gouwuhao within the Huiju mini program that encourages WeChat users to recommend goods to their friends on the social app. By recommending a product, users can offer followers a discount of between 20-50% if they buy using the attached link.
The recommending friends, however, won’t get a commission for the time being, KrASIA found. A package of Unifon skincare products, for example, could be priced at RMB 129 (USD 20) for a WeChat user, and drop to RMB 91 (USD 14) for the friend, if recommended via the new feature. “It prompts WeChat users to ask their friends to purchase the item for them,”shoppers on the social network commented on the idea.
It might be too early to tell whether Tencent’s most recent e-commerce efforts will yield results, but with 1.2 billion users, WeChat’s online retail ambitions are catching the attention of both competitor platforms and brands looking for new sales channels.