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How to Use Wechat "Private Traffic" to Acquire Customers for Free?

The term “private traffic” has been a buzz word in China recently, especially during COVID-19 when the online public arena became the major marketplace for brands to acquire customers. You may find many articles explaining what “private traffic” in China is, but in this blog post, I want to tap into how you can build your own “private traffic” with WeChat and why “private traffic” is important for brands.

Send this guide to your team to convince them that “private traffic” is the future of online marketing in China, for both B2B and B2C companies.

“Private traffic” explained

The trendy term “Private traffic” refers to the online audience reached without relying on any third party or paid channels, it is solely controlled by the brand itself and can be used to stimulate repeat sales for free.

On the opposite hand, public traffic means traffic that is controlled by third-party platforms such as most e-commerce platforms, search engines, and news platforms, where brands need to pay to gain traffic.

Private traffic is not only a powerful lead gen tool but an important long-term asset for brands to engage with its customers across their entire life cycle.

How “private traffic” became popular?

Private traffic came to the public’s knowledge as Tencent publically introduced the concept of “.com 2.0 Omnichannel Private Traffic” to marketers in 2019.

More online players, more competition

The concept became extremely popular as the cost for customer acquisition online became increasingly high on “public traffic” platforms such as T-mall, Toutiao, and Douyin (TikTok).

In 2019, the average CPA of Alibaba platforms increased by 221.2% from 58.31 RMB to 187.29 RMB per customer. Brands’ ad spends on Tencent ad platform also stays at an all-time high of 70% total sales budget or 5% total revenue.

During COVID, the online traffic competition was further aggregated with more brands appear online in various formats such as KOL live stream and short videos.

This is how “private traffic” comes to play. It’s free, it's repeatable, and its content and format are controlled by the brand.

Why use WeChat to build “private traffic”?

Traditionally, brands use the website as a content marketing channel and email as “private traffic” tool to reach the audience directly.

But email is useless in China, this is especially true for consumer brands. Different from email, WeChat is an all-in-one super app that incorporates multiple powerful functions into a single platform.

WeChat official account (WeChat OA) is compared as the mobile version of the official website, WeChat group can be used as “email marketing”, and WeChat messenger is the more effective way to provide information for potential customers than chatbots.

Due to its social media nature, content is more easily spread via consumers’ social circle. With 1.1 billion monthly active users, WeChat is so powerful that any brands that can use to its full advantage will have the potential to grow exponentially.

There are mainly three major components to establish “private traffic” on WeChat:

- WeChat Mini App:

On-WeChat app that works exactly like a self-developed app available on app store, except that users are not required to download it. It is often used as an e-commerce platform linked with the WeChat OA.

- WeChat Group:

Similar to What’s up chat group, except that WeChat group offers more advanced functions such as “group task”,“group announcement” and “bill split” for the group owner to better manage the chat group.

- WeChat OA (Official Account):

WeChat OA is often used as a mobile version of the website and a platform for users to find company news and product-related information. Users who subscribe to WeChat OA will see news updates on their subscription feed page.

Now you know the key components required to establish “private traffic” on WeChat, let’s see how they work together for brands to acquire customers and build one-of-a-kind consumer experiences.

How to build “private traffic”?

Not as it may sound like, “private traffic” is not an esoteric, but it does require some planning to build a seamless customer journey.

First of all, it's important to understand “private traffic” is not suitable for all brands and businesses. We find it works best and fastest with consumer products/services with relatively affordable prices and requires repeat purchases such as beauty products and online education, but less effective with those normally has longer sales cycle like most B2B businesses.

Let’s use e-commerce as an example to show how a brand can build private traffic on WeChat.

1. Convert existing and new traffic from public traffic space

Convert users previously acquired from existing public traffic, such as T-mall followers, Weibo followers into WeChat followers. New brands can acquire WeChat followers by doing social ad campaigns on WeChat, which is a more expensive but necessary step to gain first group of followers fast and efficiently.

2. Link your WeChat OA with WeChat mini-app

If you are in the e-commerce business, it’s highly suggested to build a WeChat mini-app to provide a one-stop customer experience solely on WeChat, which will allow your WeChat OA followers and other WeChat users to immediately purchase your products without switching platforms. It is also a good alternative to T-mall that doesn’t take a commission nor require an overhead deposit as its rival e-commerce platforms do.

3. Create your WeChat fan group

WeChat group serves much like email newsletter subscription, where users continuously get valuable content, discount information, and getting invited to sales live stream events from the brands.

It’s a great tool to build brand affinity as brands communicate directly with the customers and provide valuable information. For some brands, it also creates a community where like-minded users gather together in one group. But to create a friendly environment, it is crucial to assign someone to constantly manage the group and its users.

4. Use WeChat personal account to provide customized service support

The WeChat group manager can also be the WeChat assistant to provide virtual customer support before and after customers purchase your products.

For example, Perfect Diary, which is a successful beauty brand in China, created a virtual customer support staff called “小完子” (a nickname of its Chinese brand name). Once the user follows the brand’s WeChat account, the brand will invite users to add “小完子” as a WeChat friend immediately.

This allows the brand to turn its WeChat followers into leads, who will then receive regular discount updates, invitation to live stream events and coupons from the virtual assistant.

After users purchased the products, the virtual assistant will then provide continuous customer support to answer questions about the products.

Perfect Diary WeChat private traffic strategy

WeChat "private traffic" created a huge success for Perfect Diary

5. Plan WeChat OA content

However WeChat group can be useful for reaching customers directly or virtual assistants can provide superb customer support, content is still the king to reach a wider group and trigger customers to repost to their WeChat “moments”.

If users follow your WeChat OA and found your content doesn’t “click”, they will unfollow you. Therefore, keep your content fresh, relevant, and useful is critical.

The below illustration shows you a clear buyers’ journey with Wechat “private traffic”.

Customer engagement journey infographic

Typical “private traffic” customer engagement journey on WeChat

Key success factors:

Now you understand what is “private traffic” and how to build Wechat “private traffic”, there are some key factors you need to know to build a successful business using “private traffic”.

1. Find your target

The more targeted your WeChat followers are, the easier you can turn your followers into customers and more likely they will engage with your brand.

2. Create a unified brand experience

Since private traffic is not just for a one-time sales campaign, it’s important to keep your customers inside of your “private traffic” loop by providing them a unified brand experience without losing them.

3. Build your army

Whether you have a marketing partner in China do it on your own, it’s important to have a dedicated team to manage WeChat “private traffic”. Treat it seriously as you’d treat your website, and assign the resources as you would assign to your e-commerce team. After all, from content creation to customer support, your WeChat team needs to work collaboratively to create seamless customer experiences.


In general, private traffic is a valuable asset for both B2B and B2C brands. Its long-term value will far exceed the resources and investment that cost to build it. Brands will eventually find they save a large amount of advertising budget and create a stronger brand affinity.

What is your thought or experience with “private traffic”? Share with us or ask us about it!

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