WeChat Official Accounts –An “App-within-an-app” Platform

With 10 million official accounts, WeChat is serving its users as a browser for 10 million apps covering every aspect of their lives.

WeChat Official Accounts –An “App-within-an-app” Platform  

What is WeChat?

WeChat is an all-in-one communication app developed by Tencent in China. It was first released in January 2011 as an instant messaging tool, now its functions have expanded to text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast messaging, group chat, video conferencing, sharing of photographs and videos, location sharing, official accounts and online payment. As of August 2015, WeChat has over 600 million active users; with 70 million outside of China1.

What is WeChat Official Account?

WeChat supports users to register as a public account, which enables them to push feeds to subscribers, interact with subscribers and provide them with services. By May 2015, the number of Wechat official accounts had reached 10 million2. WeChat public accounts have become a common service and promotion platform for government, news media and companies.

What Can We Do with WeChat Official Accounts?

Companies, government, media and other organizations use the platform for interaction with users and providing services such as hospital pre-registrations, visa renewal or credit card service.

WeChat official account functions include:

Broadcast Function: send text, audio, image, video, and rich media to subscribers.

Keyword Reply: If the message sent by a subscriber includes the keyword that official accounts have set, the reply contents that you have set in this rule name will be automatically sent to the subscription user. (e.g. users can send “bank statement” to Bank of China official account to get their bank statement)

Custom Menu: The custom menu can be set at the bottom of session interface of an official account with menu items and response actions as required. By clicking menu items, followers can receive response actions such as receiving message and going to URL.



Western Union(United States)

Western Union offers WeChat users the services to send and receive money cross-border to 200 countries and territories via the company’s official account on WeChat.

wechat2 wechat3

UNICEF (Hong Kong)

Provides a simple and safe donation method for users. It allows users to donate money via credit cards issued by local banks and send “inspired gifts” through Official Account platform.


BTS SkyTrain (Thailand)

Fast and easy way to find information about routes, ticket types, fares, operating hours, news and promotions.


Doctor160 (China)

Provides online medical services including clinic appointment, medical registration, counseling, health management, etc.


How do they Make Money?

To register as an official account, RMB 300 (~USD 50) registration fee must be paid to WeChat. However, this is only a small portion of WeChat’s revenue on official accounts. Most of the income comes from advertisement such as pay-for-performance (P4P) advertising, where revenue grew 18% qoq in 1Q15 to Rmb1.3bn to account for 48% of Tencent’s total advertising revenue2.

Why is it So Successful? — “App-within-an-app” Business Model

With 10 million official accounts, WeChat is serving its users as a browser for 10 million apps covering every aspect of their lives. Official accounts’ developers are provided with the technical guide to customize their accounts (see WeChat’s manual for official accounts’ developers http://admin.wechat.com/wiki/index.php?title=Getting_Started ). Subscribers can access APIs for features like direct messaging, voice messaging, information search, payments, and location. Once you’re inside WeChat’s app, you can hail a cab, manage your credit card bills, check the news, and more, all from within the main app. It’s this app-within-an-app functionality that has led WeChat to find success.

WeChat accounts have become so popular that some startups even test their apps by launching on WeChat before creating a standalone app3.

WeChat’s innovations — particularly its mobile-first, app-within-an-app model — make other messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger seem rather primitive in comparison.


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Goldman Sachs research reports
  3. http://www.businessinsider.com/wechat-why-it-dominates-china-2015-8


INSTACART: Fresh Food Fast


KONE – Onwards and Upwards!

Student comments on WeChat Official Accounts –An “App-within-an-app” Platform

  1. Thanks for your insightful note, Feiran.

    Seems like WeChat’s customer base is pretty receptive to ad placement such as P4P. Has Tencent considered lowering its subscription fee to grow a sticky user base within its app within app platform? I would imagine there would have to be an inherent desire to “opt-in” for the unique user experience at such a high price point vs. apps such as Facebook Messenger and Viber which are virtually free . So why not price lower, grow and monetize on a larger user base and continue to curate ad content for those users?

    Seems like a tremendous amount of personal data is stored within the app. Does Tencent / WeChat offer enhanced security measures to protect its end users? What differentiated their security infrastructure from similar app within app platforms?

Leave a comment