David Thomas, founder and president of the Australia China SME Association, told iTWire that an overwhelming number of Chinese people used WeChat for digital transactions and expected to be able to do the same when they came to Australia as tourists.
According to figures that iTWire reported, there were 889 million WeChat users in China as of August 2017. The app offers what Facebook, WhatsApp, Tinder, Paypal and Slack together do. There are 500 million who use mobile payments.
Thomas, who runs Think Global Consulting, an organisation that facilitates business and investment partnerships between developed and emerging markets, particularly in China, claimed that WeChat now had a billion monthly active users.
“The number of people in Australia using social media is growing. Around 70% of Australians are active social media users,” Thomas said. “Seven in ten businesses in Australia use at least one form of social media platform and yet only a small portion use WeChat."
Data from Sensis shows that 47% of small businesses, 49% of medium-sized businesses and 60% of big businesses have a social media presence.
Thomas said Australian businesses should awake to the fact their country was located in Asia and realise that to maximise business opportunities, they would have to adopt practices which were common in the region.
“The Chinese account for a large component of retail spend in Australia," he said. "Our country enjoys strong tourism activity from China."
He said about 1.2 million Chinese tourists visited Australia every year and spent an average of $8300 while in the country. "This is the highest spend of any visiting nationality. In addition, there are also at least 185,000 Chinese students studying here every year.
“The latest data tells us that there are some three million WeChat users in Australia and nearly 40% of these are non-native Chinese speaking.
“Clearly WeChat is growing in use and if Australian businesses want to ensure their brand and products achieve full reach across the market space and capture the spending dollars of visitors, as well as those living in Australia who use the app, they need to include WeChat in their marketing mix.”
Thomas said Australian businesses, particularly SMEs, could not afford to ignore WeChat. "It is a key tool in reaching Chinese and other consumers in Australia – especially consumers willing to spend money on luxury and authentic Australian brands."
He said one did not need to speak Chinese to use WeChat. "Most users consume content in English as well as Chinese, and there is a reliable ‘translate’ button which instantly converts Chinese characters into readable English," Thomas said.
“Large Australian brands are using WeChat, it is time for Australian SMEs to do the same," he added.