Models on the catwalk Louis Vuitton show.

LONDON — Louis Vuitton and De Beers are among some of the first luxury brands to establish a presence on the newly introduced Shipinhao, WeChat’s answer to Instagram.

The all-in-one app that dominates 1.15 billion users’ daily lives began testing a new feature, found in the discover section, that lets users create and watch a feed of videos and photos in late January.

The digital product is still in its trial period. The quality of user experience is nowhere near its competitors, but it has significant potential.

WeChat is fighting to get a slice of the fast-growing Chinese short-form video market from TikTok, Xiaohongshu and Kuaishou, which is expected to be valued at $30 billion by 2021, according to China Internet Watch.

Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak, more Chinese consumers are going online for shopping and entertainment. The live-streaming function and short videos in these digital platforms have become a key way for brands to influence and sell products directly to consumers.

Screenshots of Louis Vuitton and De Beers' Shipinhao page in WeChat

Screenshots of Louis Vuitton and De Beers’ Shipinhao page on WeChat.  Screenshots/ Tianwei Zhang

The problem with WeChat is that it’s not an open platform. One needs to send a friend request to another person in order to see their social feeds on the Moments section, or Friend Circle in the Chinese version. But Shipinhao breaks the barriers and users will have access to content from everybody.

Louis Vuitton joined Shipinhao on Saturday, while De Beers revealed on Monday that it is the first luxury jeweler to be a part of the platform. Vuitton’s first video, about its fall 2020 show, received 100,000 views and 300 likes moments after the launch.

Chinese celebrities, fashion publications and influencers have also been quick to participate in the platform, but the majority of WeChat users are still getting used to the new function.

Other brands are still evaluating the new platform as WeChat’s mini-programs have already proven to be a tool to offer a more complex digital experience than a simple short video.

A communications manager at a European luxury brand said of Shipinhao: “This platform has little real value at the moment. What’s more, China simply doesn’t have enough high-quality influencers to create good content.”

While a spokesperson from a Paris couture house said: “At present, we are in close communication with Tencent for the final evaluation on the stability of the platform, back end operation logic, and risk management solutions. Protecting our brand image is equally important to keep up with the speed of the Internet. After working out all the details, joining the platform is just a matter of time.”

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