There’s no doubt that China is the place to be for luxury brands right now. So how can businesses tap into this huge market? Thankfully, China is one of the most digitally innovative countries in the world, which means companies have a host of opportunities to enter the market.

Here are eight ways WeChat can work magic for a company based outside China.

1. WeChat Pay

Having WeChat Pay is a must for just about any business type. A number of places outside China, such as London’s Camden Market, are seeing increased uptake in the use of WeChat Pay. While Chinese travellers can pay by credit card if they have to, most of them want to be able to pay by WeChat.

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Companies such as Britain-based Ksher Wikaas can create such WeChat commerce; there is a mini-programme which essentially serves as your “shop”, and further in-app, web-based or in-store WeChat payment methods.

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Working with the Scottish Whisky Experience, Ksher Wikaas has installed proprietary EDC (electronic data capture) devices, which provide an easy way for Chinese visitors to pay for their favourite whisky tipple. Meanwhile, the prestigious Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has installed WeChat Pay options onto its website so that Chinese visitors can purchase tickets online using WeChat Pay.

2. Mini-programmes: your ‘China website’

E-commerce has become We-commerce

E-commerce has become we-commerce. The preference for WeChat Pay merely scratches the surface of the amazing WeChat world. When a customer pays for something with WeChat, they are added to your database. This allows your company to offer them special promotions, loyalty programmes, and functionality such as store-finders. You can easily forward this information to your customers’ contacts or to their “Moments” feed, and they in turn can click through to your online store, and more.

As an example, WeChat KOLs (key opinion leaders) such as Xiaoxiaobao Mama are making over £5 million (US$6.65 million) in monthly sales via their WeChat mini-programme – which is essentially a mini-app within WeChat that is easier and less costly to build than a stand-alone app.

Launched in December, the WeChat Brand Zone was taken up by Longchamp, Tiffany & Co, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Swarovski, Montblanc, Gucci, and Lancôme. The Brand Zone keeps a brand’s WeChat account (for content), online store and even CRM (customer relationship management) are held in the same place. The UX (user experience) is seamless, and brands can customise how they use the options available to them – meaning flexibility of presentation. Importantly, having everything held within their own WeChat zone means that the consumer can fully trust the authenticity of the product.

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3. Customer relationship

... having a China-based team for full CRM via WeChat creates the personal touch that Chinese consumers love

Air France’s WeChat account has a customer service chat function on WeChat, which can reply to customer queries in Chinese or English. Customers can use the service to perform tasks such as choosing seats, specifying baggage needs and cancelling flights. Even for a brand still mainly outside China, having a China-based team for full CRM via WeChat creates a personal touch that Chinese consumers love.

4. Online-to-offline

Via your WeChat account, you can let Chinese customers know where your stores are around the world and more

It’s not just the convenience of having WeChat Pay within your main social media and communication app, but also the ability to provide the luxury Chinese consumer with a fully integrated shopping experience. 54 per cent of luxury Chinese shoppers say that an omni-channel shopping experience is “non-negotiable” (BCG Global Consumer Insight), which shows where the preference is heading, even on such a new tool.

Via your WeChat account, you can let Chinese customers know where your stores are around the world and more – during Golden Week last year (China’s national holiday in October), Hugo Boss offered customers special deals at various stores outside China, based on the buzzwords “duty free”, and offered special deals when they arrived.

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5. Loyalty programmes

IHG, the world’s biggest hospitality group, launched its loyalty programme IHG Priority Club on WeChat. Members can instantly check their points, booking options and manage existing reservations in the account, as well as enjoy exclusive offers.

Shangri-La Hotels’ WeChat has a function for price comparisons between all of their hotels, and some hotels (such as Pudong Shangri-La) have a flash sales page for special deals on rooms, F&B, CHI the Spa, and so on.

6. Previews and pre-booking

Warner Brothers Studio Tour Hollywood now has a WeChat account which gives Chinese visitors guidance as well as live-streams of tours, giving direct access to future visitors.

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco has an official WeChat account, and accepts WeChat payments at the museum itself. Having paid with WeChat, visitors can enjoy exclusive benefits such as a Chinese audio guide and map.

7. Detailed guides

WeChat CityExperience has launched, with the tourism boards of Dubai, London and Sydney offering guides on the mini-programme to give Chinese tourists help and guidance in navigating major cities and learning about their cultures and histories from official sources.

British Airways tugged on heartstrings with its Flying the Nest Campaign, centred on a Chinese student receiving a surprise visit from her parents when studying in the UK. It called on the emotions of an only child studying overseas and her need to impress and take care of her parents when they are visiting her. The campaign was coupled with a travel guide — available from WeChat and via a QR code — which highlights the cultural points of daily UK life.

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8. Internet of things functionality

At Caesar’s Entertainment’s LINQ Hotel & Casino, guests can use WeChat to control their room functions such as lighting, air conditioning, curtains and door locks, and to order room service.

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