—Traditional offline sales of fashion businesses are shrinking, gradually replaced by the surging online sales due to the fast development of e-commerce in China. The success of online businesses has therefore become the key for the fashion businesses to succeed in such an industry with fierce competition. Aleesha Institute Fashion Designing Under this situation, fashion businesses are trying all their means to improve their online sales through various marketing efforts. Many businesses do have successfully and effectively utilized WeChat, a mobile social networking tool, as a tool to market their products point to point, and many marketing strategies have been developed as a result. However, the majority of those strategies are formulated based on general marketing theories, and few are based on AISAS consumer behavior model (an acronym for Attention, Interest, Search, Action and Share). This research conducted a questionnaire randomly among young people, investigating the distribution of information WeChatters are concerned with, and the interaction of people with fashion businesses’ WeChat subscription accounts. On the basis of the investigation and the AISAS consumption model, fashion businesses are suggested to try all means to promote their WeChat subscription accounts, to well design and tailor make the information distributed to subscribers through WeChat, to interact efficiently with consumers before, during and after WeChat marketing campaigns, and to take measures to encourage consumers to share their positive shopping experiences through WeChat.
THE QUESTIONNAIRE AND RESULTS
To put forward youth-targeted WeChat marketing strategies for fashion businesses, it is indispensable to examine the penetration of WeChat among young people and the potential problems with WeChat marketing in this industry. http://www.aleeshainstitute.com/ Therefore, a questionnaire was conducted randomly among young people in the age group 18-35 in public places with high population density in Wuhan city, such as universities, shopping malls and pedestrian streets. It is designed based on AISAS consumer behavior model and consists of 14 questions, which fall into three sections, with the first one collecting the respondents’ personal information like gender, age and academic qualifications held, the second one investigating the distribution of information WeChatters are concerned with, and the last one dealing with the interaction of people with fashion businesses’ WeChat subscription accounts. Four hundred questionnaires were distributed altogether within three months from September to November 2017, and 373 copies were collected effectively, with the rest of the 27 copies being invalid either because they were not finished properly or because the age of respondents did not fall into the targeted age group. Meanwhile, ten typical fashion businesses in Hubei province were interviewed in this period to understand their practices in terms of using WeChat as a marketing tool and the problems they encountered in this process. Prior to the questionnaire, the author assumed that the information young WeChatters accessed most was those related to their preferred pop singers, actors or actresses, and their favorite WeChat function was the social part. It finally turns out that the assumptions are similar to the questionnaire results. Demographically, well over 90% of respondents use WeChat, and more than 85% of them are aged 18-35, while females account for over half of the respondents. The academic qualifications of approximately three thirds of the respondents possess are either diploma, bachelor’s degree or higher, with virtually twenty per cent of them owning master’s or doctor’s degrees.
Therefore, the population using WeChat shows a trend with young age and high academic level. The main functions of WeChat include social functions like voice or message chatting with friends and sharing pictures or videos, and information access function from different subscription accounts, such as those from news agency, pop stars or from businesses. When asked which functions they use in their use of WeChat, the overwhelming majority (above 90%) provide the response of using WeChat mainly for social interactions with their friends, only just under 30% of people use WeChat to access the latest news and about 20% of WeChatters subscribe information from WeChat accounts of different individuals and businesses. In the questions about the type of information they access through WeChat, almost 41% of people report that the category they access most is entertainment information distributed from the WeChat accounts of their favorite pop stars, compared to around 28%, 16% and 8% of people choosing the information related to living, news and businesses respectively. Very few of them connect themselves to the WeChat accounts of fashion businesses and if they do, the accounts they subscribe must be those of well-known fashion brands. This finding is also demonstrated in the question about the reasons why they subscribe information from a specific business WeChat account, with people choosing “for leisure and recreation‘, “for news and information”, “or the latest development trend of the business” and “friends’ recommendation” representing roughly 45%, 33%, 11% and 8% respectively. When asked what kind of information distributed from a specific fashion business WeChat account they are more interested in, more than 33% the subscribers of the account choose information about fashion trend, and this is followed by information about promotion (27.54%) and new products (18.66%). Among subscribers of the WeChat accounts of fashion businesses (only less than 17.5% of all people involve in the survey), nearly 30% of people might read the sales information from fashion businesses, and among the various kinds of marketing activities through WeChat, the ones that attract people most are promotion activities (33.85%), followed by redemption games (26.56%) and flash deals (22.48%).
If a satisfying purchase is made by people through the WeChat account of fashion businesses, about 68% of people will be willing to share the shopping experiences with their friends and make buying recommendations. In terms of using WeChat to provide feedback information, more than 70% of people are willing to interact with businesses and provide feedbacks. However, it should be noted that there are also almost 50% of people who are unsatisfied with the communication with businesses through WeChat, and complain of the delaying of businesses’ response and the impatience of customer service personnel from businesses. Complaint of an overall insufficiency of information and lack of information of subscribers’ interests are reported generally by the respondents.
These findings indicate that the WeChat platforms of fashion businesses are faced with difficulties attracting the interests and concerns of more fans, and their active subscribers are far less than expected. On the other hand, in the interviews with the mid-level management of several fashion businesses, it is found that many fashion businesses do not have WeChat exclusive marketing teams operating and managing their WeChat accounts, regarding the accounts only as a platform for advertisements. A fashion business interviewed in Wuhan mention a depressing effect with WeChat marketing, with huge financial and personnel inputs, but low sales conversion rate. This experience makes many fashion businesses finally give up using WeChat as a marketing tool after suffering from a series of failures, or reduce the investment in this respect.
The fast development of mobile Internet means that more and more people would access information though their mobile terminals. WeChat, as a platform run on mobile terminals, provides various development opportunities for fashion businesses, whose online sales are now much greater than offline sales among young people. Fashion businesses should, therefore, be confident in employing WeChat as an effective tool to market their products, and should not be frustrated because of large amounts of financial and personnel inputs.
However, before launching any marketing campaign using WeChat, fashion businesses should survey and analyze their targeted customers’ shopping preferences and their WeChat using habits. These measures could help businesses design and launch better marketing practices targeted at their customers, and make the information about their products better reach potential buyers. Fashion businesses should also fully take advantage of WeChat’s roles both as a social networking media and as an information distribution platform. These two roles ensure that fashion businesses could distribute their marketing information through WeChat, and encourage subscribers to share the marketing information and their shopping experiences through WeChat at the same time. Fashion business should also keep pace with the development of WeChat. As a technology, WeChat has been progressing year by year, and new functions for distributing and sharing information have been arising. Therefore, businesses should keep themselves reminded of the effect of those new features on their marketing strategies and make changes whenever necessary. Otherwise, subscribers of their WeChat accounts might easily abandon them with unsatisfying experiences of their WeChat services. Finally, one important point that businesses should bear in mind is that WeChat should not always be their only mobile marketing tool, and that it should be accompanied by other effective marketing tools like QQ or microblog. By doing so, businesses could mitigate the effect of the reduction of subscribers on their sales.