Posted on March 5, 2019 by staff

Can Facebook become ‘WeChat of the West’?


The COO of FinTech firm Optomany believes Facebook could become the ‘WeChat of the West’.

WeChat, one of the world’s largest standalone mobile apps, was created in China in 2011 and started as a messaging app before adding features over time such as social media and payment methods.

Ian Rutland says that people in China effectively “live inside WeChat” as the average user now spends around four hours a day interacting with the app, which provides real-time offers and services from social media, food or online retail – all with the ability to pay through the app.

He believes that ‘super lifestyle apps’ such as WeChat could take off in the UK if enough budget was allocated to providing the functionality and driving customer adoption.

“I think WeChat was born in a different environment. I think the challenge in the Western world is that people are using lots of different platforms and apps,” he told BusinessCloud.

“Is someone, such as Uber and Deliveroo, going to be able to pull all of those together? Do they try and create a new app, or does Facebook try and become WeChat?

“WeChat incrementally added new features whereas Facebook is established as a social platform. Are people really going to adopt it as a full lifestyle or are they perfectly happy using separate apps?

“It could happen, but I think there’s a lot of money required – not just for the app development and the back-end systems behind it – but building the brand and the consumer adoption that’s going to make it valuable.”

Rutland, who spoke at Answer Digital’s recent breakfast event in Leeds to discuss the impact of real-time payments, mobile technology and open banking on different sectors, gave an example of someone buying flight tickets to Europe who would then be presented with local hotel offers by the app.

He also said customers do not want to leave apps when finalising purchases.

Founded in 2013, Optomany is an omnichannel payment provider which works with Premier League football clubs such as West Ham, Swansea and Fulham to enable them to monitor customers’ shopping habits and offer appropriate deals.

“Our functionality would enable someone like West Ham to see you have bought something online and turned up at the store on matchday,” he explained.

“If you used the same card that you used online, their systems could pop up with he bought a shirt last week and could offer him half price for putting his name on the back of the shirt.

“We have tokenised the payment card details and if they’ve got the right customer relationship management systems, they can do a lot of mining on the behaviour of their customers.”

The firm of 120 staff also works with charity Pennies to allow customers to enable their card to round up card purchases to the nearest pound, and donate the extra change to a charity of their choice.