The 300-plus million users of China-made messaging app WeChat can already use it for video calls, finding dates, or following brands and celebrities – and soon it will gain another aspect. China’s biggest e-commerce site, Taobao, is testing out a sort of e-commerce search engine inside WeChat. Once up and running, it’ll allow WeChat users to directly message Taobao on their phones by typing a kind of product that they’re looking for; then the app will respond with a link to the desired items.
Basically, it’s just an extension of the brands platform that WeChat already has in place, and which is used for social marketing by all kinds of stores and media outlets – from Starbucks to Chinese fashion magazines. All it requires is for Taobao to make use of WeChat’s brand platform to automate the text queries and auto-generate a relevant link. It’s pretty simple, but it helps users to search Taobao more easily than having to jump to a web browser or open up the actual Taobao app.
The ‘Taobao Search’ account is already on WeChat (add it by scouring for “tbsearch” within WeChat), but when we tested it out, the Taobao Search account didn’t respoond to my query about a Xiaomi phone (pictured above). Once this goes live, it will work as described. This is aimed at Chinese users, but there’s nothing to stop other companies implementing this kind of social searching in the popular messaging app.
According to Marbridge Daily, the Taobao Search account within WeChat will also show products for the sister site Tmall. Both are run by Alibaba Group.
Once the search function is working, all those product searches can be turned into mobile purchases in the normal way, by jumping into the Taobao app to complete the e-commerce purchase. This might boost the ratio of Taobao’s mobile purchases slightly – but mainly it looks to be a new and social avenue for searching for products.
Alibaba already has a dedicated product search engine in the form of eTao, which scours pretty much every online mall in China.