On Tuesday, Apple launched an online store in China on Tencent’s local super app WeChat, fueling the expansion of retail distribution channels in one of its key markets.
WeChat is China’s largest messaging platform with over 1.2 billion users. It is often called a super app because it goes far beyond a simple messenger. Users can access so-called “Applets” which are actually apps within WeChat. This means that users don’t have to download many different applications but can access all required services within WeChat. In this form, the Apple Store is implemented in WeChat.
Tencent said in a statement that the mini-program will allow users to purchase Apple’s entire line of products, including the latest iPhone 14. Orders placed through WeChat ship for free, but some users may be charged for expedited three-hour delivery. Buyers can also access some of Apple’s other services, such as the trade-in program, Tencent said.
Apple has a firm grip on its retail channels, but has expanded its presence on China’s largest internet platforms in recent years. Apple has an official store on Tmall, an e-commerce website powered by Alibaba. At the same time, JD, the second largest Chinese online store, is an official reseller of Apple products.
iPhone sales in China remain quite solid despite the difficult situation in the overall market. In the first quarter of 2023, smartphone sales fell 5% year over year, hitting their lowest level since 2014. At the same time, Apple’s iPhone sales rose 6% year over year.
However, Apple is aiming to reach more customers. WeChat is ubiquitous in Chinese society and people use it for everything from sending messages to booking flights to paying bills. The integration with China’s largest Internet platforms is part of the company’s strategy to increase its presence in one of the most important markets.