Based on my article with Connie Chan as can be seen here.
But first, the chat groups this posts largely focuses on are not shopping-centric groups (ie Pinduoduo), but conversational group chats facilitated by businesses. These group chats thrive because they feel natural and not transactional.
Ctrip creates group chats for Chinese travelers to major world cities every week. They push products, like car rentals/tours and even spas, but also help travelers have fun to ensure repeat customers. It was fun waking up everyday to hear about adventures across the world!
They’re also nice because users can crowdsource literally anything! I saw people share pools to visit in Bali, photos of lines at Shanghai Disney, and restaurant reviews in Phuket.
@ClaireLiStory told me about her mom crowdsourcing cherry blossom photo spots in Japan.
Group chats drive friendship because live conversations mimic real life. I saw tons of solo travelers planning meetups, trips, and nights out. Ctrip disbands the groups after every trip for privacy, but I know from my time in-groups that people make lasting friendships.
Even if the end result is not commerce, customer relationships build brand loyalty. One am, a user lost her bag in the airport. Ctrip support responded immediately with contact info, and fellow travelers helped her find it. That’s a lifelong customer/brand advocate.
Other examples: Supermonkey gym has no membership cards. They use group chats as a loyalty tool: instructors post class music/photos/nutrition tips, and users resell classes they can’t attend. When I attended a class recently, group members hung out IRL afterwards and went for bbq.
In Lingochamp, the group leader hosts a new activity every day in the group chat for students to practice with each other ie self-introductions, interviewing, or even reading Christmas poems. Every week the leader touts performance improvements while upselling premium classes.
That’s not to say only in China do businesses see the benefits of group chats: see Lambda School’s CEO
@Austen’s tweet on what he uses group chats for:
In sum, the point is not that group messaging is better than group posts, it just drives a different kind of behavior. And the C2C interactions in the chat groups can work for businesses by building trust and driving sales.