Why WeChat Failed in US Market

In March 2018, WeChat’s global active users exceeded 1 billion, becoming China’s first mobile application to reach the 1 billion monthly level. Despite the proud data, WeChat has become one of the most successful super apps in the Chinese Internet circle because of its unique product philosophy and design philosophy.

In contrast to domestic success, WeChat ’s overseas development has suffered many setbacks. As can be seen from the data released by the US statistics service provider Statista in September 2019: Among the most popular social apps in the United States, WeChat did not rank in the top ten, but was ranked almost at the bottom. . In fact, the usage rate among American users is only 0.79%.

Regarding the reasons for the failure of WeChat in the United States, most observers blamed WeChat’s failure on its failure to comply with the usage habits of American users. But for a product with huge Chinese users, the problem of its functional level may be one of the reasons, but it is difficult to become the core factor of failure. Behind this, there must be more macroscopic things such as social culture, market environment, and product strategy.

Missed the entrance timing

WeChat started its road to globalization in April 2012 and invited football superstar Messi as its overseas version’s image spokesperson in July 2013. It can be said that WeChat has great confidence in the US market.

What time was 2012? If we take “Apple iPhone 4 released in June 2010” as the starting node of the mobile Internet, 2012 is only two years past, the entire mobile market is in a stage of vigorous development, and there are a lot of traffic dividends on the market And opportunities exist.

Well, it is not too late for WeChat to enter the US market at this time. But for the special field of social networking, the best time to enter has been missed.

When talking about the “timing of admission”, we also need to talk about the characteristics of the Internet industry. In the eyes of many people, the biggest difference between the Internet and traditional industries is that the Internet can be a “winner takes all.” Once a product gains a competitive advantage, it can almost occupy most of the market. No matter the Meituan in the takeaway industry, Didi in the travel field, or WeChat in the social field, this feature is highlighted.

However, this statement is actually not accurate. The “timing of admission” needs to be combined with specific industry characteristics.

Taking the consumption of short video content as an example, “Quick Hand” was born in 2011, and the “Douyin” went online five years later than it, but still achieved good development. In addition to Kuaishou and Douyin, there are many players in the domestic short video field, such as second shot, micro-view, volcano, and beautiful shot.

Therefore, in the “long market” in the content field, although the “timing of entry” has an impact, it is not fatal. The competition between products is the subversive and innovative content creation model.

The social field is a completely different situation. Social is a typical “oligopolistic market”, and head players will have a strong exclusivity. The development of WeChat is a typical example. WeChat was launched in 2011, and after gaining an advantage in 2012, it has almost fully occupied the Chinese social market to date. The Yixin, Michao, Contacts, and Chat treasures that appeared during this period were basically minor incidents and did not have a major impact on WeChat ’s basic disk.

After figuring out the market characteristics of different fields, we will see that there will be multiple players such as WhatsApp, Messenger (Facebook’s social software), Skype, Line, etc. in the US social market before 2012, and WhatsApp and Messenger After several years of rapid development, there has been a trend to gradually unify the market.

A major feature of social products is the precipitation of the relationship chain, which has a very high cost of replacement. Without special circumstances, users are usually reluctant to change social software. So in 2012, many Internet segments have just begun, but for social products, the overall situation is actually set.

In fact, 10 years have passed now, and the pattern remains the same. After the US social market matured in 2014, no new product could have a big impact. The only exception to this is Snapchat, but Snapchat is aimed at young people who like to socialize with video, and has only 200 million daily activities, which is still not on the same order of magnitude as Facebook and WhatsApp. From a strategic perspective, one of the core factors of WeChat’s collapse of the United States is that it missed the best time to enter the field.

Americans don’t like super apps

Let’s compare the scenarios when Chinese and American users use mobile applications.

In the United States, if you want to chat with friends, you will use Messenger; after chatting, if you want to share your mood dynamics with others, you will send a Twitter; after sending the dynamics and want to order a glass of Starbucks, you open Starbucks and then down It ’s a single order; you also want to read the news content while drinking Starbucks, so you open BBC News again; after reading the news, you want to buy clothes, then you will use Amazon; when you pay, you must also use Paypal .

Through the above description, you will find that American users will use the corresponding APP when they meet a specific demand. However, in China, whether it is chatting, sending news, shopping, paying, or reading, all of this seems to be done using the WeChat app.

“A huge difference in the usage habits of Chinese and American users” is difficult for many Internet practitioners overseas to understand. Many people reasoned about this: American users prefer simple products. This answer is not convincing, because “simple” is a relative concept, users care about whether they can better meet their needs, rather than simply asking for simplicity.

A large number of overseas user analysis reports point out that the so-called “simple” and “complex” are just appearances, and the core behind it is-the degree to which users care about privacy.

Since all data of the user’s clothing, food, housing, travel, social entertainment, etc. are all recorded on an APP, have you considered that this APP may already know you better than you? Even if you are wearing layers of steel armor, in this APP, you are always in a “nude” state?

I have to admit that for a long time, Chinese users have not paid enough attention to “privacy”. In the eyes of the American people, this is totally unacceptable.

So privacy is the core reason why American users hate super apps.

“Privacy” is also a difficult problem for WeChat. Although it has repeatedly promoted its information security, WeChat still adopts “transmission encryption” rather than “end-to-end encryption.” In a common sense, “transmission encryption method” means that in addition to the sender and receiver being able to view the information content, the WeChat server itself can also view the user’s information records.

Because WeChat’s servers are in China, this has increased the concerns of American users. In fact, not only in the United States, because of privacy issues, WeChat’s development in other regions has also been repeatedly frustrated.

In 2017, the relevant Indian departments required their functional personnel to delete the Chinese applications on their mobile phones, and the main target of the attack was WeChat. Australia, Taiwan, Russia and other places have adopted similar practices. WeChat was once banned as a blacklisted application.

In contrast, Facebook, another hegemon in the social field, is doing very well in this regard. Facebook will record every request for information viewing issued by relevant departments of various countries in their annual Transparency Report (Transparency Report), and will regularly Released to the outside world. At the same time, Facebook will open source its own information encryption technology from time to time, and explain its own encryption protocol technology principles to the outside world.

“Transparency Report” is an effective way for technology companies to communicate their information security strategies to the public. It was first published by Google in 2010 and has been widely followed by other technology companies. In this regard, WeChat has always been a quiet-mouthed attitude.

Of course, people will ask: It sounds like this problem is not difficult. Why does WeChat not change the encryption method and learn from other companies to announce their security policies? In fact, this is not determined by WeChat, but is directly related to the information security regulations of various countries.

Slow localization

“The best opportunity to miss the entrance” and “Intractable privacy issues” are both strategic problems encountered by WeChat in the development of the United States, so how does WeChat, which has always been proud of the product, do at a specific strategic level ?

The answer is: not good enough.

One of the reasons for WeChat ’s great success in China is Tencent ’s understanding of Chinese users ’behavior. More than ten years of data accumulated by QQ has made Tencent understand the needs of users better than any other manufacturer. This advantage was available at the beginning of WeChat.

But in the adjustment of product strategy in the US market, WeChat seems to be slow to act. For example, a few years after WeChat entered the US market, some American users complained online: searching for “Chinese New Year” in the “expression shop” will get a lot of content, but when searching for “Independence Day”, “Carnival” and other Western festivals But with very few results.

Similarly, the functions of WeChat, such as “public account”, “WeChat payment”, “shake”, and “people nearby”, which we are proud of in the Chinese market, are all in the United States.

Or from another point of view, among all the segmentation functions of WeChat, American users can find better alternatives. However, WeChat cannot provide localized services that rely heavily on the supply side, such as e-commerce and games.

These problems seem to be functional design problems when the product is localized, but further thinking is actually “WeChat’s product value problem.”

Two characteristics of Chinese Internet products: One is to “follow opponents forever” and follow behind competitors’ ass to reduce mistakes; the second is to “listen to users forever”. It is this concept of Xiaomi’s extremely complicated product design based on user feedback representative.

If we observe the evolution of WeChat, it is not difficult to find that WeChat is a rare product that relies on “value-driven”, that is, “I think this is right, I will do it.” There is no doubt that this is one of the reasons why WeChat has beaten a competitor in China.

But the premise of “value-driven products” is the product manager’s advanced understanding of user needs and a deep insight into human nature. Without this premise, the resulting product may be far from the user. In the domestic social field, WeChat has undoubtedly achieved it. However, in the US market, the correctness of this product value has obviously not been proven by practice.


The above is a “non-comprehensive” dismantling of the reasons for the collapse of WeChat in the US market. We sincerely hope that in the next decade, China will have a batch of Internet products that go abroad and sail the world.