- WeChat Expands in Europe to Attract Advertisers, Payments
WeChat, China’s most popular social media and messaging service, has launched a new bid in Europe and the U.S. to develop its payments offering and win new advertisers.
Owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd., WeChat is looking to launch an office in the U.K. and another European country, alongside its existing presence in Italy. Tencent, which has an established office in San Francisco, is also looking to grow its WeChat team in the U.S., targeting advertisers and payments providers.
“We needed to make a step closer in serving European brands,” said Tencent Europe director Andrea Ghizzoni, in an interview with Bloomberg.
WeChat, which also hosts payments and brand pages, has more than 889 million users in its home country, yet remains largely unused outside of its home country.
It is not the first time WeChat has attempted to win over Western users. In 2013 the app hired soccer star Lionel Messi in a high profile campaign outside of China. “There were lots of downloads” of the app, said Ghizzoni. “However stickiness was slow.”
WeChat is now focusing more on business-to-business, encouraging Western brands to sell products on the WeChat platform. The service is courting “high-value” brands in countries like the U.K. and Italy, Ghizzoni said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Burberry and Chanel are already high-profile clients on WeChat’s platform.
In Europe, the focus is first on fashion and luxury goods, and will in time expand to travel and broader retail services. WeChat is hoping its expansion in Europe will convince more high-profile brands onto the platform, not only to reach consumers in China, but also Chinese tourists visiting Europe.
Goldman Sachs estimates that 220 million Chinese tourists will travel overseas by 2025, up from 120 million in 2015.
“Tencent could be following Chinese travelers to Europe and the U.S., as many of these consumers are going overseas for shopping,” said Marie Sun, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Morningstar Investment Service. “It would make sense for brands to advertise on WeChat which is a large and effective platform.
Tencent’s payment business is booming, as its average daily transactions topped 600 million a day in December. Chinese consumers are using the service to pay for everything from ride-hailing to food takeout.
But while WeChat has been one of the leading providers in offering chat-based payment systems, its global competitors have been ramping up the competition.
Facebook Inc., which owns WhatsApp, has been expanding its payments offering within its messaging apps, while Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s finance affiliate has been busy pushing Alipay in Europe. In August, Ant Financial, Alipay’s parent, announced a partnership with Ingenico Group SA, a French payments group, to allow Chinese tourists to pay for goods in Europe via the group’s e-wallet platform.
“We are talking to different payments institutions in Europe,” said Ghizzoni, “in order to integrate them into WeChat.”
Ghizzoni flagged the U.K.’s high-profile payments industry as a major reason for setting up in the country. WeChat is working with media agency Digital Retex in the U.K., who are helping set up an initial office in Mayfair. The messaging app will add more staff, from IT to operations, over the next year.
“Tencent could be trying to do what Alipay is doing,” said Sun, “but there’s much more uncertainty in terms of when the business could take off, as it would need to overcome many regulatory hurdles.”
African Startup uLesson Raises $15m, with Support from Tencent and Nielsen Ventures
Two-year old edtech startup uLesson, founded by a Nigerian, announced that it has now closed a $15 million Series B round.
Edtech startup companies benefited greatly from the pandemic’s disruption, pulling huge amounts of money from investors worldwide and it felt like African startups were left out. However, the announcement of uLesson shows that this is not the case any longer.
The investment comes almost a year after uLesson closed a $7.5 million in Series A round. and was completed by five different investors, and they are; Tencent, TLcom Capital, Founder Collective, Nielsen Ventures and already existing investors Owl Ventures. The investment is also the largest announced investment in an African edtech startup.
uLesson was founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya in 2019, and it came into the market when the pandemic ravaged the world last year. Being a young company, uLesson had to keep switching business models in a bid to determine what would be best for a very tough African market.
At its launch, uLesson started by providing a product pack of SD cards and dongles which had pre-recorded videos for K-12 students. They can access lessons either via streaming or through using SD cards to download and save the lesson content.
However, uLesson has introduced some new features for a comprehensive edtech play for the demographic. It added quizzes, as well as a homework help feature that would assist students in connecting to tutors from other universities.
It also started a live class feature, which consists of polls and leaderboards as well as a live experience of DevKids, a coding class that is separate from the core uLesson platform. DevKids has however been rolled back, with Shagaya stating that plans were being made to introduce the feature – which was initially an experiment in teaching kids how to code and at a point raked in about 30% of the company’s total revenue – sometime in January next year.
Alexa, Global Web Traffic Analytic Company to Shut Down in May, 2022
Alexa, Amazon.com owned web traffic and analytic company, on Wednesday announced it was shutting down operations after 25 years of helping businesses grow and expand their reach.
The company disclosed this in a statement published on its website.
Alexa will officially shut down on May 1, 2022. Therefore, businesses are advised to export their data between now and May 1, 2022.
However, current paying subscribers will continue to enjoy Alexa service up until May 2022.
The statement reads: “We will be retiring Alexa.com on May 1, 2022
“Twenty-five years ago, we founded Alexa Internet. After two decades of helping you find, reach, and convert your digital audience, we’ve made the difficult decision to retire Alexa.com on May 1, 2022. Thank you for making us your go-to resource for content research, competitive analysis, keyword research, and so much more.
“We have been proud to serve you as customers.”
Alexa FAQ For Subscribers
How do I export data from Alexa.com?
- We offer several data exports. Please see this FAQ for more information: How can I export Alexa’s data?
Can I buy a new subscription?
- No, Alexa.com stopped offering new subscriptions on December 8, 2021 UTC. Customers with existing subscriptions will continue to have access to their subscriptions until May 1, 2022 UTC.
What will happen to my existing subscription?
- Existing subscriptions will remain active until May 1, 2022 UTC. After that, customers will no longer have access to Alexa.com.
Will I be charged for my existing subscription?
- Yes, the last subscription billing date will be prior to April 1, 2022 UTC. Customers will continue to have access to Alexa.com until May 1, 2022 UTC.
Can I delete my Alexa.com account?
- Yes, please refer to How do I delete my Alexa.com account?
Nigeria’s Bento Expands Further into Africa
Nigeria’s digital payroll and human resource management platform, Bento is expanding into other African countries like Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda while maintaining plans to start operations in six other markets in Africa within the next one year.
For the next expansion phase, Bento is targeting Egypt, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Angola and Ethiopia for further expansion by the end of next year.
Bento is accessing the payroll and Human Resource management market in Africa that has usually relied on laborious analogue processes to distribute payment. The start-up, which was founded in 2019, is assisting businesses to automate the payment of their salaries and other statutory remittances, which include taxes and pensions.
The co-founder and CEO of Bento, Ebun Okubanjo lamented about other companies making use of the analogue processes to manage their workforce, citing it as frustrating but exciting for Bento. Okubanjo stated that employers do not have access to customised, world-class payroll and HRM (Human Resource Management) tools, and the employees cannot access third-party tools to make their lives easier. Okubanjo then said that the company is building the operating system that will have a solid impact on the African continent even for the generations to come.
Bento stated that its platform is leveraging data to expand credit solutions to third parties (or employees) and other services such as unemployment insurance, investments and savings.
The start-up’s main credit engine which was built in partnership with Tarya of Israel, makes sure of the payment of instant loans. In Nigeria, Bento currently serves more than 900 businesses, including healthcare and financial service companies like Hygeia and Tangerine Africa, and Y Combinator-supported start-ups Paystack, Kobo360, Branch and LORI Systems.
The second co-founder and COO of Bento, Chidozie David Okonkwo said that the company is starting off with payroll and HRM, but also moving very quickly towards Salary 2.0 where the company will “redefine the intersection of work and life and transform how people earn, spend and borrow money on the continent.”
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