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From WeChat Work to WeCom

Posted in WeChat on April 2nd 2021

WeChat, China’s super app, has been the Chinese people’s go-to messaging application. Aside from individuals’ daily contact, businesses and companies also joined WeChat because of the comprehensive environment it provides. Nevertheless, Tencent and businesses discovered the drawbacks from using WeChat in a professional setting. Therefore, the Tencent team developed WeCom in order to create a clean ecosystem for more effective communication and more exclusive services.

What is WeCom (or WeChat Work)?

WeCom is a corporate communication and office tool that is integrated with WeChat. It helps companies connect both internally and externally with partners and consumers, solving the critical challenge of communication in the workplace.

WeCom is part of the WeChat ecosystem and there is a high level of interoperability between them. WeCom user experience is similar to WeChat, and therefore it takes less time for the users to get familiar with the tool.

5.5 million enterprises and organizations were using WeCom in December 2020. In addition, the number of active users has reached 130 million, serving more than 400 million WeChat users on WeCom. In the meantime, 13 million corporate service personnel on corporate WeChat are providing professional services to the clients.

The reason why WeCom is so popular among businesses is because WeCom allows companies to apply their own company structure on top of a private version of WeChat. When properly configured, a company can easily calibrate messaging, permissions, privacy, security, and an assortment of useful business apps across any segmentation of departments and positions.

The WeCom Evolution

The Blurry Line Between Work and Private Life

WeChat has played a significant role in Chinese people’s daily life. Connecting with each other, paying and purchasing using this multi-purpose social platform is common. Chinese traders and bankers are also using WeChat to make deals even though it is not designated for business use. Around 80% of Chinese WeChat users perform professional tasks using WeChat in their companies, resulting in the application’s mass adoption in the country.

For those who heavily rely on WeChat for their work, they find it hard to keep a balance between life and work as they end up having hundreds of group chats for work-related business on their personal WeChat account. Moreover, a lot of employees find it difficult to transfer large files to their colleagues, and the files would be very difficult to find or expire after a short period of time.

Tencent thus set out to solve this problem by introducing the first version of “WeChat Enterprise” in April 2016 catering for the employees’ and companies’ needs.

The “WeCom” Name Evolution

If WeChat is mainly used for personal use, “WeChat Enterprise” was meant to be a standalone version of WeChat for internal corporate communication aiming to allow users to draw the important line between work and personal life.

In January 2018, “WeChat Enterprise” was then renamed to “WeChat at Work”, adding a key feature for external communication alongside internal company use. This has enabled users to not only chat with their colleagues, but also prospects and contacts outside of their organization.

“WeChat at Work” afterwards was more commonly known as “WeChat Work”, and by August 2020, “WeCom” started to appear as its replacement.

Why “WeCom”?

As it might be confusing for many who are unaware of the “WeChat Work” to “WeCom” change, let’s talk about the evolution of why such change happened and what changes have already taken place.

A Tool for Constant Evolution

Among all the enterprise-level applications, WeChat Work has an amazing speed of iteration. In 2019, over 1,100 functional iterations were made. Tencent has been constantly making changes on the elements in the interface and on the functions, so WeChat Work is continuously evolving and keeping up to date with the users’ needs. However, starting from 2020 “WeChat Work” was silently replaced by “WeCom” as “WeCom” started to appear more and more on Tencent news.

Different Purposes

One of our clients told us that WeChat Work was a much more interesting name and made more sense, since the word “WeChat” was directly stated in the name, especially when there is a high level of interoperability between WeChat Work and WeChat. Additionally, the interfaces of these two applications are very identical. Adding a “Work” behind the name “WeChat” makes the name more self-explanatory: WeChat focuses on the 2C area which allows the users to connect with each other and share their life events, while WeChat Work focuses on the 2B aspect where distracting functions such as Mini Programs, Official Accounts, Personal Moments have been taken off, and adding other features that can improve the work efficiency.

Speculations for The Name Change

In comparison, the name “WeCom” sounds quite obscure as we don’t know what it really stands for and there are no official press releases by Tencent to officially announce the name transition.

What we do know is that Tencent registered the WeCom trademark on August 19, 2020 as according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In early August, Donald Trump, former President of the United States, signed an executive order to impose restrictions on TikTok and WeChat, which went into effect starting September 20, 2020.

Reuters reported that 2 Tencent sources claimed the enterprise version of WeChat did not fall under the scope of WeChat-related transactions ban, which is one of U.S. measures to crack down on Chinese tech firms and apps considered threatening to US national security. As a result, many have speculated that Tencent might have wanted to escape ahead of the ban by just “taking on another cover” with this name change. Regardless of these speculations, however, nobody really knows the real reason behind this silent name change.

WeCom Competitors: Domestic and International

Chinese Competitors

Tencent was not the only company set out to solve the workplace communication problem. The main competitors for WeCom in China are DingTalk by Alibaba and Lark by Bytedance.

DingTalk by Alibaba

DingTalk, launched in 2014, was originally a product developed by Alibaba to compete with Tencent’s product WeChat, aiming to take away some market share from Tencent in the workplace communication scenario. DingTalk serves around 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises.

Lark by ByteDance

On the other hand, the rapidly growing Internet company ByteDance had begun to seek tools for internal communication within the company as early as 2012. Bytedance tried a lot of softwares and tools before, such as Skype, the combination of WeChat and WeCom, Slack, and DingTalk, but eventually chose to build its own tool. In 2017, Lark was thus put into use.

Unlike DingTalk and WeCom, Lark puts more emphasis on collaboration rather than management, showing that its target users are flat organizations. Also, in order to avoid the direct competition from DingTalk and WeCom, ByteDance put focus on the international market rather than the domestic one.

International Competitors

Microsoft Teams

There are also a lot of tools and softwares developed by companies outside China that have similar functions and features just like WeCom such as Microsoft Teams and Skype. Microsoft Teams lets people host audio, video, and web conferences with anyone inside or outside your organization. Teams of 10 or 10,000 can meet in one place, regardless of their locations. Also, Teams allows employees to share files, participate in one-to-one and group chats easily, all with enterprise-grade security.

Slack

Founded in 2013 and ranked as the leader among the start-up sector with developers and tech-savvy workers, Slack is a cross device cloud-based messaging platform trusted by 12 million daily active users by 2019. Similar to other applications, Slack has fundamental functions which let users or entrepreneurs create and manage chat rooms (channels) followed by topic, private groups, or direct messaging. Specifically, Slack, alongside the capacity of the unlimited users allows people to use markdown, edit a posted message, and the ability to preview decently-sized content when links are attached. Within the free packages, Slack offers people to host video or audio conferences with up to 15 users connected at the same time. Slack also has dynamic features enabling businesses to have unlimited external collaboration with paid plans with up to more than 2000 integration applications. Slack has been recently acquired by Salesforce for US$27.7 billion in December 2020.

Skype for Business

Skype for Business is different from the normal Skype for daily use. Just like WeCom is the business version of WeChat, Skype for Business is the entrepreneurial version of Skype and is developed especially for businesses and companies. It allows employees to add up to 250 people to online meetings, provides enterprise-grade security, and is integrated into various Office apps.

Nevertheless, some people complain about the inconveniences occuring when they use this particular tool. For example, there would often be choppy images when a lot of people join in a meeting at the same time. Also, employees are not able to recognize the true identities of each other as often the panel only displays their nicknames. Although Microsoft Teams is beginning to replace Skype for Business in terms of internal communication within the company, Teams might not be good enough for the Chinese market since many users criticized that the interface design on Teams was not “Chinese-friendly” and therefore only used basic functions.

Reasons Why Companies Are Using WeCom

There are multiple benefits of using WeCom in a professional scenario:

  • More advanced communication features

  • Can accommodate up to 2,000 users in a group chat

  • Include features like to-do lists and read receipts which allows greater efficiency through the company

  • “Inheritance from former employees” function is available. This feature allows a new employee to take over all client resources from the former employee, allowing for a more seamless takeover

  • Internal contacts can be segregated into different departments and be assigned to varying permission levels

  • External communications can also be separated to avoid miscommunications

  • Admins’ exclusive company management features :Adding or modifying departments, setting user roles, checking weekly member usage summary and more.

 Unlike WeChat’s system for shared files which expires in a matter of days, shared files in WeCom will be retained in the cloud storage for up to 6 months.

WeCom Benefits for Enterprises: Case Studies

Use KPI to Improve Acquisition

Tracking the acquisition process and using KPIs on WeCom is an efficient way for brands to improve acquisition.

Regarding our clients feedback, without WeCom, the sales teams find it difficult to know about the latest status of customer acquisition progress. Thus, they were less motivated to support the acquisition campaign and there was a risk to lose insight of how sales connect with customers.

After adopting WeCom, salespeople could keep track of their individual progress in customer acquisition to their brand's online community with a KPI dashboard.

Meanwhile, it is also possible to adjust and plan customer acquisition campaigns based on the insights, greatly improving the acquisition efficiency.

Integrate Order System with WeCom

Nestlé uses a Mini Program within WeCom, integrating order data from the order system, to provide a more efficient and accurate way for sales to communicate and align orders with clients. This was the “traditional” method for salespeople to communicate with distributors:

  • Salespeople log in to other platforms to communicate

  • Salespeople manually check order and product information when communicating with distributors.

The new process after Nestlé integrating WeCom with the order system and its Mini Programs enables salespeople to check the order information on WeCom and directly send information to distributors to ensure efficiency and accuracy.

Use WeCom to distribute surveys

Metro utilizes WeCom, instead of emails, to distribute surveys and maximize both the reach and the open rate. Before using WeCom, the Metro staff was sending surveys via email to its customers. This method was ineffective because the open rate and the response rate were low. However, since WeCom allows employees to add customers’ personal WeChat on WeCom, the Metro sales team was then able to send surveys directly to its customers and clients in the WeChat ecosystem, gathering more feedback and making tailored improvements.

WeCom Article Series

This article is the first of a series of five articles that introduce WeCom’s prominent functions and features. In the following articles, we are going to present them in 4 areas:

  • Article 2: How files are shared and exchanged and how confidential information can be protected on WeCom;

  • Article 3: Functions related with external communication and how they can improve the working efficiency when we communicate with the clients;

  • Article 4: Explanations on the useful functions in managing internal communication within the company;

  • Article 5: Benefits for both the employees and the company brought by WeCom and how customization can be realized will be illustrated.

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