WeChat, China’s fastest growing online communications and e-commerce platform, is an extremely powerful instrument for service, engagement and sales. Being one of the first western airlines on WeChat, KLM is currently strengthening its presence on the platform. The next step, says Karlijn Vogel-Meijer, Manager Social Media at KLM, is making followers book on WeChat and pay for it without leaving the app.
What makes WeChat such a great platform for business?
“WeChat is one of the world’s best chat apps. One of its unique features is that users can both chat with small groups, get information and inspiration and even pay for goods and services within the app. Many Chinese even pay for their groceries in the supermarket with WeChat Pay, order and pay for food delivery. WeChat is part of their daily lives”.
How important will WeChat become for KLM and its customers?
“WeChat is important for us because our customers use it. We want to be where our customers are. It’s that simple. If you want to reach out to the Chinese, you need to be on WeChat, the app that accompanies almost every Chinese in his daily life. We expect social media – and chat-apps in particular – to become the third major ‘entry point’ for our customers, next to klm.com and the KLM app. The WeChat story is a great example of that. We believe that WeChat is the blueprint for the future major chat-app in the western world.”
What app will be the WeChat of the western world?
“It looks like Facebook Messenger may be that app, but it could also be the ever-popular WhatsApp. Messenger is currently working on expanding its features, along similar lines as WeChat. WhatsApp hasn’t announced any plans for businesses, yet... WeChat teaches us what the world of chat apps may look like. Our experience on Messenger further strengthens our strong belief that chat apps are going to play a very important role. From the moment that we went live on Messenger, our service volumes increased. It seems that people feel more and more comfortable in communicating with companies via chat apps.”
What services does KLM offer on WeChat?
“Service, brand and commerce. First, people can ask general questions or present problems with for example luggage, their booking or anything else. Our Chinese agents answer about 5,000 questions a week. We also offer interesting content that we refresh four times per week, about our products and about special deals. We promote our brand, obviously, and offer interesting deals on our flights from China to Europe and elsewhere in our network. We are in the process of offering features of our KLM.com on WeChat.. Chinese are used to staying at the platform of their choice: they don’t like to follow links to the web, they want the booking and payment within the WeChat environment. I expect this to be implemented in 2016.”
Any other challenges?
“In general: how to stand out in the incredibly large number of offerings on WeChat. Another challenge is to find out what appeals to the Chinese audience. What content and tone of voice works? With our local team, we take small steps to get to where we need to be. WeChat is different from Facebook – it is a microsite where the Chinese consumer likes to find information-rich pages that – according to western standards – are somewhat ‘loud’. Chinese are quick readers and clickers. We try to offer the content that matches their appetite, with lots of visual content, possibly video.”
“But perhaps the biggest challenge is to grow the number of followers in China. Knowing that we have over 15 million followers on Facebook, we need to bring up the number of 100,000 followers in China to millions. Let’s go to the first million. An interesting challenge! We may need to implement the latest technology of – for example – artificial intelligence and chat-bots to keep up with the growing volumes, without losing our personal KLM style of engagement and communication.”