How will OTAs cash in on the search windfall of WeChat?
WeChat has replicated Baidu’s formula in creating the volume of flow with its searching function, but its advertising model on Tongcheng, eLong and other advertisers remains to be seen.
WeChat has added a new feature “Search” after releasing the latest version in May, and this has been considered a blow to Baidu. As an emerging mobile application with up to 962 million active users per month, WeChat is indeed gradually changing users’ habits and consumer behavior.
One can search information on WeChat either through the top of the list of chatting history or through the Search entrance on the Discover channel.
China Travel News found that flight information and booking, hotel reservations and attraction ticket booking are all available on WeChat. Corresponding widgets will pop up for direct operations after users click on the information, but this feature is only open to part of its users.
WeChat has also strengthened the function of widgets in its ecosystem through the search entries. On the searching page, recently-used widgets are listed for quick entry (this feature is not open to all users, either).
From the searches tested, the information of VariFlight, Tongcheng Toursim, eLong and Ctrip can be accessed through a certain combination of key words, as WeChat’s parent Tencent has invested in both Tongcheng and eLong, and Ctrip also benefits from its stakes in Tongcheng and eLong.
The commercial development of China’s giant Baidu search has shown the way on the commercialization of Tencent-backed WeChat search. Taking Baidu as a reference, Tencent is likely to achieve rapid conversion through keyword-bidding ad ranking.
A step up from Baidu search, WeChat search stands out with its scenario-based products, especially in hotels and attraction tickets. From the search results of China Travel News, geological location has turned out to be a strong element affecting the hotel and attraction recommendations, and WeChat search widget is a solution and carrier to meet users’ demands for e-commerce products.