E-commerce Giant Moves Into Social Media
After inventing a festival for singles to encourage shopping on Taobao/Tmall, Alibaba’s latest IM invention “来往 Laiwang” has also been promoted along with the shopping festivals. Whilst Aliwangwang is only for instant messaging between shoppers and sellers on Taobao and Tmall, Laiwang is the new tool Jack Ma, chairman of China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group, is using to expand his e-commerce empire to social media world to compete with WeChat, and as ever, Jack has his way of stirring the water at all touch points.
It all started with December 12, a shopping festival invented to provide shoppers with huge ranges of products on sale. On Tmall’s 1212 promotion page, a note on the side of the leaflet promised shoppers the chance to talk to Jack Ma in person if they scanned the QR code. Eager to find out how, I was drawn to scan the code at which point my phone was redirected to a page to download Laiwang. This was a disappointment to say the least – I felt I’d been tricked into downloading the app. There are all other sorts of ways to attract online shoppers to download Laiwang, including cash reward.
There is no contact information on name cards of Alibaba employees now – only a QR code linked to their Laiwang account
Besides promoting it on the shopping festival, Jack Ma himself claimed he had stopped using WeChat in support of his own “baby” Laiwang. According to The Wall Street Journal, Ma has been pressuring Alibaba employees to promote Laiwang. Failure to find 100 new users will mean no “red packet (or 红包, aka cash reward)” this year.
Penguins are being hit and beaten in Laiwang’s new games
Most recently, two new games “啪啪啪 (onomatopoeia, the sound of slapping)” and “啵啵啵 (onomatopoeia, the sound of kissing)” featuring penguins being hit or beaten were launched on Laiwang app, which most netizens see as an indication of Alibaba wanting to bring down Tencent.
New features introduced in the opening of Laiwang
Laiwang (来往) went public this fall with their bid to have a finger in the big pie of IM in China. To differentiate itself with the dominating IM giant Tencent’s WeChat and the recent new competitor China Telecom’s Yixin, Laiwang has some interesting new features.
• Burn after read – similar to Snapchat, messages would be deleted after the receiver gets it from the sender
• Voice to words – with a understanding of how inconvenient voice message could be in some circumstances like meetings, users are able to transfer the voice message to words in Laiwang
** Interesting to note that this ”voice to words” function has been later adapted by WeChat and included in its new updated version
• Sound embedded emoticons – in the default setting, sound embedded emoticons would automatically play to provide with more interactive messaging experience
• “敲门(literally meaning knocking door or knock-knock)” – a platform where users can find new friends after answering 3 questions correctly. This is quite different from WeCha Shake by emphasizing on finding people sharing similar way of thinking
But having a differentiated and user-friendly functionalities alone won’t take Laiwang very far though. The battle between Laiwang and WeChat has a negative impact on user experience and the entire IM section – as things heat up between the two companies they have been accusing one another of stealing ideas and even blocked sharing functionality across each others platforms for a while after Laiwang’s the launch. Additionally, the fact Jack Ma pressuring employees to recruit more app users is understood as a bad move in terms of company and brand culture.
Article by Toni Yang