Over the past year, we have frequently mentioned the emerging phenomenon of Chinese KOL brands — KOLs who turn the traditional sponsored-post model of KOL sales campaigns on their head by manufacturing and selling their own products specifically created for their audience. This model proved extremely effective last 11.11 Singles Day when a total of 6 KOL-run stores made it into the Top-30 best-selling female fashion stores on Taobao.
Weibo KOLs created the majority of these brands and run the stores on Taobao. This is largely due to the partnership between Weibo and Alibaba, which allows integrating the two platforms for a seamless buying experience.
Unlike Weibo KOLs, WeChat KOL Sales Campaigns were stuck. The ability to link to outside e-commerce platforms was limited, making it difficult to achieve high conversion rates. But now, thanks to WeChat mini-programs, WeChat KOLs are starting to join the ranks of successful Taobao-based KOL brands.
The Issue with WeChat KOL Sales Campaigns
WeChat KOLs are some of the most respected and in-demand KOLs in China. Their in-depth articles and unique writing styles create a close bond between them and their audience, which in-turn can drive massive sales for the brands they partner with.
However, there has always been a huge obstacle to direct selling: WeChat KOLs typically have Subscription Accounts, a type of account that precludes including links in articles. The only way users can link to external websites and e-commerce sites is by putting a link in the “Read More” button, which has abysmal click-through rates and doesn’t allow links to certain sites like Taobao. In many cases, readers must take several steps before they can reach the item being promoted.
Then along came Mini-Programs Readers previously had to click the “Read More” button at the very bottom of the article (left). Clicking the button might only lead them to a QR code which they would still need to add before reaching the final offer (right).
WeChat mini-programs are essentially apps within the WeChat ecosystem. Official accounts build mini-programs for a number of reasons, such as e-commerce, coupons, loyalty programs, travel guides and more.
While there has been much criticism of mini-programs, there is no denying that they solve a huge problem for KOL sales campaigns. WeChat now allows Subscription Account holders to include links to mini-programs in the body of their articles, giving brands and KOL sales campaigns a much more convenient way to create direct links to products, thereby increasing conversion rates and sales. The link appears as a large card-like button which can include text and images. Clicking the button takes readers directly to the mini-program store.
Mini-programs not only streamline the buying process on WeChat. In some ways, the stores themselves are better than Taobao stores because brands can control the experience without being ranked side-by-side with competitors.
Example of a KOL sales campaign with a mini-program button in an article (left), which takes readers directly to the KOL’s mini-program store (right).
WeChat Luxury Boutiques Amplify KOL Sales Campaigns
The first large WeChat KOL to take advantage of this new technology was Gogoboi, who launched his mini-program boutique called Bu Da Jing Xuan (不大精选) in April, 2017. Gogoboi has not ventured into manufacturing his own products quite yet. Instead, his store sells a curated selection of goods from luxury e-commerce retailers like Yoox, Net-A-Porter, and Farfetch. He has also partnered with brands to launch their products exclusively on his platform, the most successful case being Givenchy’s Duetto bag which sold out within 72 hours.
Shiliupo (石榴婆报告), an extremely successful WeChat fashion KOL with over a million followers, launched her mini program boutique in August. Similar to Gogoboi, her store sells items from other retailers like Selfridges, Net-a-Porter or Shopbop. Most of these products are sold cross-border, and often shipped from Hong Kong.
A True KOL Brand
While both of those stores are extremely successful examples of KOL-run e-commerce mini-programs, neither of them has created their own unique brand. Earlier this month, on December 19th, fashion KOL Becky Li (黎贝卡的异想世界), known for her incredible selling power, launched her own mini-program store. Unlike the two examples mentioned above, Becky created her own line of products based on data collected from her millions of followers.
Keeping in line with her reputation, the products were high-quality. Yet, in true KOL brand fashion, she was able to keep the prices much lower than comparable products from traditional brands because she already had an established customer base and saved on marketing and promotion.
The collection was a resounding success, selling out within three hours.
In an interview with WeChat’s Open Course Public Account (微信公开课), Becky shared why she chose to launch her collection through a mini-program store. She pointed out that WeChat mini-programs are able to create a better user experience than an H5 store could. She also said that the ability to have the store appear in the menu of her public account’s landing page would increase the number of return visitors and, as mentioned above, the ability to include a link within articles was a huge deciding factor.
According to data provided by Becky, a link in the Read More button of her articles typically has a click-through rate of 15-25%, whereas so far, a mini-program button link has a click-through rate of nearly 37%, a significant increase.
Becky Li’s sold-out collection is further proof of the incredible potential of KOL brands and KOL sales campaigns. Whether through curated boutiques or the development of original products, we are guaranteed to see a growing number of WeChat KOLs monetizing their audience with mini-programs.
On Saturday, January 13 and Sunday, January 14, 2018, PARKLU will hold its sixth installment of theINSIDER private shopping event. This weekend affair will bring together over 20 international and independent brands offering a curated selection of womens/mens fashion, accessories, jewelry, kids, and lifestyle products. More than one hundred KOLs will be attending the event to share the experience with their followers. Tickets are limited, so register early to guarantee two-day access.
WHEN: Saturday, January 13th (1–6pm) and Sunday, January 14th (1–6pm)
WHERE: Bridge 8 IV Events Hall – Rooftop, NO 457 Jumen RD, Shanghai