How to Build Trust with Advance WeChat Automation

In today’s world big data, AI, and automation marketing has become these buzz words that businesses and marketer love to toss around to sound sophisticated. But very few people actually understand automation marketing well enough to truly leverage it.

Here in the west, a majority of the automation marketing is done via email and maybe SMS (text messaging) and is usually done in two forms one for B2B or professional services where there is a need to nurture leads and potential prospects.

The other is in the more FMCG, brand space where it’s all about automating the customer experience pre and post-purchase of your products, such as sending thank you messages, upsell emails, etc…

In China, automation marketing is still relatively new and, in many ways, very challenging. This is because the majority of the Chinese consumer don’t or rarely use email. So, email is not a great channel for communication in China.

This causes a problem because most of the automation here in the west is done through personalized email as it allows you to 1) personalize the email specifically for every customer (if you know what you’re doing), 2) create dynamic behavioral driven automation based on the user’s interactions, 3) able to send long or short messages with pictures and videos.

Although SMS (text message) is also used in automation marketing, it is far less used for a few reasons. You cannot really send an extremely long message because of people aren’t used to it, you cannot really attach files and large images as well and you cannot text someone as often as you can email someone or you take risk of being viewed as a spammer.

The point is, email is usually the best channel of communication when it comes to sophisticated automation marketing.

But in China, the email doesn’t work. Rather WeChat is the primary method of online communication that nearly every Chinese consumer use.

You may be thinking.

“So, what’s the big deal, just use WeChat automation instead of emails.”

The answer is not exactly. You simply cannot accomplish the same level of automation as you would with email automation.

While, if you leverage third-party WeChat automation tools such as ____ and _____. You can create rather sophisticated automation but it is far harder and more expensive…

Note: For English, Salesforce does support some WeChat automation integration with their CRM but honestly it’s not that great.

And Here is Why

First thing first, in order for you to do any kind of automation marketing in China you’ll have to have a WeChat Service Account, not personal or subscription account. The reason is while there are some automation features on the subscription account it is very limited.

With the service account on the other hand because it shows up as an individual chat on your WeChat’s chat list it allows your official account to direct message and interact with the subscribers of your service account.

The second, you’ll need to use a third-party “CRM & WeChat automation” app or build your own with WeChat’s API to fully leverage automation on WeChat because the internal automation functionalist that comes standard with your official account is extremely limiting.

In fact, with only the standard WeChat service account you can only see a list of your WeChat subscriber’s WeChat id, you can tag them and send certain automated messages.

You won’t know where all you subscriber comes from, all the tagging has to be done manually which is a huge problem if you have tens of thousands of subscribers and you can’t really track conversion from articles unless you have a WeChat specific account or use query parameter URLs.

With third-party CRM or automation tools, you can leverage WeChat API to do a lot more and get more data out of WeChat. Here are some of the automation tools available for WeChat.

Important: In China, third-party automation is not limited to WeChat, they integrate with WeChat as part of their automation solution but it goes far beyond WeChat.

Out of the Box WeChat Automation Tools

The most basic way to automate your marketing is to use the standard auto-reply functionalities that WeChat official account offers. With the out of the box WeChat official account, you have 3 automation tool you can use right away.

Welcome Message

Just as it sounds, this is pretty straightforward. You can set a predefined welcome message that will be sent out automatically every time a user follow or subscribe to your WeChat official account.

Keywords Based Responses

This is where you can set up predefined auto-replies for various of different keywords the subscriber may message you with. For example, you can set a predefined message that replies “What can I help you with?” whenever a user message you with keywords such as “hi”, “hello”, “need help please”.

There are two ways to match your auto-replies with user keywords. It could be an exact match, meaning your auto-reply will only be the trigger if it matched the user’s message exactly. Or you can use a broad match meaning your auto-reply message will be the trigger if the user’s message contains at least one of the keywords you have listed as a trigger.

Default Responses

This is the message that will be automatically sent to the user if it doesn’t match any of the keywords you listed. In other words, this is like having a standard voice mail.

With WeChat official account right out of the box, it is only possible to send the same auto-reply to every user who did not trigger one of the keyword auto-reply messages. However, if you integrate your WeChat official account with a 3rd part tool or plugin then you can preset multiple Automatic Message Response for different user groups or tags.


This is a function that is only available for WeChat service accounts and it’s not really an automation tool but it is something that a lot of business get confused about believing that it will allow them to run advanced automation.

Basically, if you remember in our official account chapter earlier on we talked about the difference between where articles you publish show up on a subscription account vs a service account. And, because service accounts allow you to interact with your subscribers as if you’re chatting with a friend the articles you can publish 4 times a month is pushed to your subscriber via “broadcasting message” while with subscription account there it just shows up in the subscription account content tab.

The benefit of having a broadcast message is that it does alert the user that there is a new “message” from the service account as if they’ve received a new message from their friend. However, there are rules and restrictions as to what can be consider as a broadcast message and typically it cannot be promotional, discounts or advertisements.

Templated Messages

The templated message that is only available to service accounts is another miss conception for many businesses. Yes, Template Messages allows you to push “Specific” messages or notification to your subscribers without any limitation but these “messages” are highly restricted as to what content you can write on them.

WeChat Template Messages are really only used for official service accounts to send important service notifications such as error notification, purchase notification, payment notification, booking notification, so on and so forth.

Using Template Messages to send bulk marketing messages such as advertisements and other messages that may disturb users is absolutely not allowed by WeChat. On top of that template, messages are highly restrictive on how the message will appear to the user. You must follow strict industry specified template provided by WeChat.

Below screenshots of are WeChat Template Messages in action. The left is a template message a receipt of the user for prepaying for his monthly mobile usage, on the right we have a template message showing purchase at a local restaurant from Da Zhong Dian Ping. So, again Template notifications like these are supported, but marketing push that will disturb the followers and is strictly forbidden.

When using the template message, some regulations should be remembered:

  • Template messages are used to help official public accounts make business notifications.
  • The template message is positioned as a notification triggered by the user.
  • They may not be sent to users who have not taken the specified action or allowed the message to be sent.
  • At present, in special and exceptional circumstances such as error codes, police notices or disaster warnings, messages may be sent without prior user authorization or action; other than these special circumstances, all actions that send a template message must be approved by the user or have already had a triggering behavior from the user before the template message can be sent.
  • Public accounts may only choose templates from the template library for their industry. If the template library does not have a template that you want to use, you can contribute to your entire industry and create a new template to add to the template library if it meets the requirements.
  • Here we made a table briefly listing currently allowed template message and disallowed template message.

If you’re interested in how to leverage template message in your business and your WeChat marketing here is a step by step guide on:

Enhanced WeChat Automation with Third-Party Plugins

Up till this point, I’ve covered all the automation functionalities that come standard to out of the box WeChat official accounts but like I said these functionalities are very limited. Imagine if you have to manually tag hundreds of new subscribers to your official account each and every day?

Luckily there are third-party CRM and plugins that integrate with WeChat official account that allows you to future automate your marketing on WeChat. Here are some enhanced WeChat automation functionalities with third-party plugins.

Enhanced Auto Response

The enhanced auto-response build on top of the basic keyword-based auto-response provided by the 3rd party plugin.

With enhanced auto-replies, your integrated 3rd party plugin will collect all the keywords your users use to message you on your WeChat official account and provide a frequency analysis report to help you make a better decision as to how to predefined your automatic keyword replies.

For those of you familiar with AdWords, think of this like optimize your keyword bidding strategy based on the Search Query Report provided by AdWords.

Chat Bots

WeChat does not provide Chat Bots with their official accounts. In order to use Chat Bots, you must integrate your official account with another third-party chat bot provider. Unlike auto-replies that comes standard with any WeChat official accounts, chatbots take the automation to the next level.

Chat Bots uses the idea of artificial intelligence and attempts to imitate a real one-to-one conversion with the user. Chatbots can carry on conversions, answer questions, ask questions, tell stories, and even be enjoyable.

Automatic Tagging and Grouping

Before we move on to the other WeChat official account marketing automation tools it is important to talk about Automatic Tagging and Grouping plugins provided by 3rd parties.

Tagging and Grouping allow you to segment your WeChat official account followers into different groups. For example, if you have 100 followers on your WeChat official account be it subscription or service. You can tag 50 of them as “girls” and the other “50” as boys.

If you integrate third-party plugin you can automate this whole process. If one of your followers click on a certain button the plugin will automatically apply a tag to that user and move them into a different segment or group.

Segmented Broadcast Messages

There is also a lot of confusion around the idea of “Broadcast Messages”. It is true that “Broadcast Messages” can be sent to your WeChat followers on a one-to-one basis without any previous interaction from the follower.

But “Broadcast Messages” are really just publishing your WeChat content be it video, article, or other rich media, and this is the same for both Service and Subscription accounts. The only difference is with service account you can only push 4 times a month but with a subscription account, you can push daily.

If you don’t use a third-party plugin, you can only push one version of content to every single follower of your WeChat official account, meaning everyone see the same piece of content. But, if you used a third-party plugin you can different content to different segmented groups of your WeChat followers.

Let’s say you have segmented your WeChat followers and you have one group of “Male followers” and another group of “female followers”, obviously you don’t want to send the exact same piece of content to both groups, right?

Now, remember we mentioned above that you can automatically tag and group different WeChat followers. So, with a third-party plugin, you can now send two different versions of your content to the “male followers” and the “female followers” separately. This way each group of followers will get a more relevant piece of content.

Service Message Bulk Push

Service messages or “Response Messages” are messages that you can send if one of your followers interact with your account in the last 48 hours. This interaction can be clicking on a menu item, sending you a support message, or like a welcome message.

Normally with out of the box WeChat official account, you’ll have to manually reply these messages one by one, with a third-party plugin, however, you can message everyone who has interacted with your account in the last 48 hours in bulk.

Template Message Bulk Push

Most foreign businesses misunderstand the idea of “Templated Messages”. They think that they can use templated messages as their marketing automation to send out messages to the user one-to-one, but this is not exactly true.

Above is a screenshot of the various types of templated message in action. On top of that templated messages are highly restrictive on how the message will appear to the user. You must follow strict industry specified template provided by WeChat, this is why it’s called “Templated Messages”.

In China, WeChat templated messages are used mostly in forms of reminder or sending receipts to the user making a purchase. For example, if we look at the above screenshot the first templated message is a reminder to play “mahjong” on Jun 25th, 2017 12:00 PM. The second templated message is a reminder of a meeting.

Advance WeChat Automation Strategies

Typically automation on WeChat is done with automatic tagging and segmented broadcasting of contents. The way it works is as follow…

1 Get A lot of Subscribers

No matter what you want to do how you want to automate your WeChat marketing you’ll need a lot of subscribers for your official account first. There are a few ways to accomplish this and we’ve mentioned some in the Official account chapter. But If you have third party CRM which allows you to track end to end, then you can tag users that subscribe to your WeChat account based on where they come from.

2 Setup Automatic Trigger and Tag Users Base On Their Behaviors

Leverage third-party automatic tagging to segment your subscribers based on how they interact with your content and WeChat official account menus. For example, if you sell to mother with children you can broadcast articles that you know a mother with daughters will like vs mother with sons.

Then as a mother with daughters interacts with your content by reading it you can tag them as “Mother with Daughter” thus segmenting them out.

3 Create Hooks & Offers

Once you’ve segmented your subscribers you can not push specific hooks and offers to the segmented users. Continue with my previous example of a mother with daughters, you can now create a hook and send them a special article that offers a special promotion on girl clothes only that drives them to your WeChat mini program.

This works regardless if you’re a B2B or B2C company and whether you sell products or services. You’re hook and offers will be different that is all. For example, for B2B you can send out invitations to your offline events for people who show more interested in a certain topic service because they were tagged for reading articles on that particular topic or service multiple times.

That, in a nutshell, is how WeChat automation marketing works in China, but if you’re serious about automation marketing in China, my suggestion is you look beyond just WeChat and think about the customer journey as a whole.

Here’s How Microsoft China Leverage WeChat Automation With Gated Content

Microsoft China created a useful and highly engaging content (white paper) as bait to attract potential clients in a selective market segment. These baits are then distributing through variously paid advertisement and offline events.

But in order to gain access to the white paper, the user will first need to subscribe to Microsoft China’s WeChat official account by providing basic information such as name and of course their Wechat account ID.

Once subscribed, using advanced automation software Microsoft China will prompt the user to register as a member for the privilege to gain access to more rich and better contents which include online live webinar, educational course, and podcasts.

Then using advanced machine learning the registered members are scored and segmented based on a few factors. How many contents they’ve consumed, how often do they engage with content, how long they watch a particular video, do they leave a comment, do they share contents, etc…

The higher a registered member score over a period of time the more likely they’re going to be interested in Microsoft China’s service and products. This is the same AI/Machine Learning concept that Google and Facebook use to server billions of dollars in the advertisement to the right market segment.

Once the users are tagged with a quality score and segmented based on their interest level of Microsoft China’s product or service. The higher scored users are then invited to offline meetings and demos.

At which point Microsoft China’s sales team will take over and follow up with these highly engaged, educated, nurtured and interested prospects. Now instead of talking to a cold and uneducated prospect, Microsoft China’s sales team will talk to an engaged and educated prospect. All of this is possible and automated with Beschannels advanced automation system.

Final Words About WeChat Marketing Automation

Unlike email marketing automation, WeChat marketing automation has its limits. After all, WeChat is first and for most a messenger and not a marketing tool. Tencent does not want to sacrifice user experience just so marketers can run an automated campaign and spam WeChat users all day long.

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