WeChat aims to grow in US despite obstacles

By Yang Jing Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-27 23:03:01

Source: GlobalWebIndex

Graphics: GT

WeChat, Tencent Inc's mobile messaging application, is reportedly encouraging US users to connect their Google accounts with their WeChat accounts by offering gifts, in an attempt to further expand its userbase in the US which experts said Monday will not be easy.

WeChat is providing a $25 gift card which can be used in thousands of restaurants in the US to each US user who connects their WeChat account with their Google account and adds 5 contacts on WeChat, Tencent's news portal qq.com reported Sunday.

Tencent established an office in the US in late February 2013 to promote WeChat under the leadership of Zhang Xiaolong, the vice president of Tencent who is also the designer of WeChat, according to media reports at that time.

WeChat, which was launched in 2011, has attracted 600 milllion registered users as of the end of 2013, including 100 million users outside of China, media reports said.

Data from UK market research firm GlobalWebIndex in early January showed that in the fourth quarter of 2013, 78 million mobile devices users worldwide (excluding the Chinese mainland) used WeChat per month, up 379 percent from the second quarter.

Although WeChat is growing rapidly in both domestic and overseas markets, experts still believe that WeChat will meet roadblocks during its development in the US.

Overseas users of WeChat mainly come from Asian countries and regions rather than North America, Lu Jingyu, an analyst at iResearch Consulting Group, told the Global Times Monday.

"I have not seen local students use WeChat, but most Chinese students here are loyal users of WeChat," Song Zhe, a Chinese student studying in Victoria, Canada, told the Global Times Monday via Tencent's QQ.

Lu noted that the US market does not show a preference for instant messaging services.

WeChat's competitors, such as WhatsApp and Line, have also not received a warm reception in the US like they had in Europe and Japan, Lu said.

Zhang Yi, CEO of Shenzhen-based Internet research firm iiMedia Research, agreed with Lu. He said the low price of mobile services in the US has reduced the need for instant messaging services.

Meanwhile, WeChat does not have any distinct advantages in the US, Zhang said.

"In China, based on Tencent's banner instant messaging service QQ, WeChat can easily attract a large number of users, but in the US, it almost has to start from nothing," Zhang explained.

Both Zhang and Lu claimed that another potential obstacle faced by WeChat in the US may be its identity as a Chinese product.

The barriers that Chinese technology companies such as Huawei and ZTE have encountered in Western countries, especially in the US, display the difficulties Chinese companies will have in overseas development, according to Zhang.

Products in the Internet field have access to a large amount of information, and it is hard to believe WeChat can be immune to concerns about information security, Lu said.

India's intelligence department suggested banning WeChat because it believed the app collected too much personal information, according to media reports in last June.

Tencent did not reply to inquiries from the Global Times by press time.

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