Tobacco Asia

Volume 19, Number 1

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Page 64 of 75

tobaccoasia 65 Public Platforms and Commercial Enterprises In recent years, we have seen many commercial tobac- co enterprises establish public platforms on WeChat Web, including Guiyang City Tobacco Company, Xiamen City Tobacco Company, Dongli District To- bacco Company, Changsha City Tobacco Company, Bijie City Tobacco Company, Dazhou City Tobacco Company, Longhai County Tobacco Subcompany, and Shilin County Tobacco Subcompany. Oriented toward retailers and consumers, these public plat- forms are mainly intended to launch development of competitive cigarette brands and make communica- tion with retailers more convenient and swift. Xiamen City Tobacco Company was the first commercial enterprise to establish a public platform on WeChat to begin taking online placement of or- ders for cigarette supplies. In doing so, the company targeted both cigarette retailers and tobacco manufac- turers, and customized services for them on the basis of their demand. It has managed to transfer parts of the services on the web platform to a platform on the cell phone, to make it convenient to inform custom- ers, and also to make it convenient for customers to check information and send feedback in a timely man- ner. The opening of the official WeChat account has also meant the establishment of a flat open platform for communication between retailers, tobacco manu- facturers, and the company itself. Bijie City Tobacco Company developed an APP system that is implemented throughout the entire to- bacco industry of China – Bijie Tobacco Shop Down- stairs. Through its WeChat public platform, the com- pany has launched a campaign to promote sales of The Yellow Golden Leaf branded cigarettes, under the theme of "Friendship Through Gentle Breeze, Fragrance of Golden Leaf", creating yet another success in the de- velopment of competitive cigarette brands. In Octo- ber 2014, the sales volume of The Yellow Golden Leaf reached a high of 701 cartons per month (140,200 cigarettes), a 525% increase. Shilin County Tobacco Subcompany set up a bridge for multichannel communication with retail- ers on WeChat, including information on the tobacco trade, including developments of the tobacco industry, information on cigarette trade, and skills of market- ing, all sent once a week to retailers. This helps them better understand the relevant policies on tobacco trade, obtain information on new developments, and improve the quality of their operations. Secondly, they established chat rooms through which information on brands, information on marketing policies, etc. is reg- ularly sent to retailers in a timely manner, and through which claims of customers are settled by means of two-way communication. By adopting the aforemen- tioned approach, Shilin County Tobacco Subcompany has succeeded in establishing a fine mechanism of communication with retailers. Public platforms and cigarette retailers In comparison with those operated by tobacco manu- facturers and commercial enterprises, the public plat- forms operated by cigarette retailers on the WeChat web tend to carry content that is closer to consumers, and is more likely to initiate online and offline interac- tion. Take, for example, the Leji Tobacco & Liquor WeChat – an enterprise chain of tobacco and liquor in Hefei City of east China's Anhui Province. Every day, a program themed "LeLe Talk of Tobacco & Liquor" is renewed on WeChat. The program's natural style has generated favorable results in promoting the repu- tation of the consumer brands. Likewise, retailers can expect to reap profits from WeChat. For example, a retailer may regularly release information about any goods that are on sale at their store, uploading reports with photos of large invento- ries of brand-name cigarette products, together with information on the corporate culture, mouth feel, prices, etc. By doing so, the retailer has succeeded in continuously improving the reputation and influence of their store. Public platforms and third parties Of the platforms on the WeChat web operated by the aforesaid four parties to tobacco trade, WeChat plat- forms operated by third-party institutions for coop- eration with the tobacco industry are a type that are relatively mature in development, relatively profes- sional in content, relatively mature in promotion, and relatively diversified in communication. The nature of the role of third parties therefore determines that the platforms operated by them on the WeChat web will be backed by sufficient information resources and will have professional maintenance by dedicated per- sonnel. Likewise, the particular vision of third parties enables them to release and derive information from a more neutral perspective. For the parties, their op- eration of WeChat web-based platforms are intended for brand publicity. Take the WeChat platform operated by Tobac- coChina Online for example. Since its beginning in March 2014, this platform has attracted more than 10,000 followers, and has released nearly 200 pieces of relevant information. In a promotional campaign jointly operated with other WeChat public accounts, the number of followers on the WeChat account of TobaccoChina Online on the day of the campaign sharply increased nearly four-fold. The joint campaign also drew unanimous praise from followers. WeChat has gradually emerged as an indispensable part of online life, and there is vast marketing potential yet to be tapped. Since launching WeChat web-based marketing services one after another, the aforemen- tioned trade parties have continued making new trials and gathering experience. There is no doubt that in the near future, the tobacco industry will definitely be able to reap greater profits thanks to WeChat web- based marketing.

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