12th February 2020 | By: Jason Vincent
Using We Chat and We Chat Payments in Vending Machines
In the third post within our payment technology series, we’re going to have a quick look at We Chat and how it can be integrated within vending machines.
We Chat integration has been undertaken by Aeguana in various ways – both from an ‘experiential’ angle, enabling customers to interact with our digital vending machines and be rewarded accordingly, through to more ‘traditional’ digital vending machines enabling customers to have a broader range of payment options to purchase their products.
But there are some common elements in terms of integration and setup requirements that span both. This can be one of the more parts, so we’ll start by looking at how it all works.
For anyone who hasn’t come across We Chat before, it’s essentially a Chinese social media and messaging platform, that also enables payments to be made seamlessly. It’s widespread in China and parts of Asia, and supports numerous payment systems behind the scenes – it’s therefore a great and relatively* simple way to provide certain Chinese and Asian customers with a ubiquitous payment method.
The way it works is quite simple – at least from a customer’s perspective. The app enables messages to be exchanged between people, but also enables the following of brands and businesses, and communication between customers and organisations, and vice versa. It’s clear that this can be a great and fairly personal marketing channel, for brands to engage customers.
Up until recently, there was a fundamental requirement to have a Chinese registered business in order to setup a WeChat account. This was a major stumbling block for many companies, leading to a series of professional services being offered by consultancies and mediators to facilitate this setup.
Thankfully, this has all changed, and now international organisations can also apply for WeChat business accounts. Here’s an article that covers some of the process: https://blog.chineseseoshifu.com/wechat-official-account-registration/.
A word of warning before you do: It’s not easy. In fact, it could be one of the most complicated and convoluted registration forms you ever fill in. But it’s probably worth it!
Let’s have a look at how it can be used within the context of digital vending machines (and possibly even vending machines in general!):
Using We Chat for generating buzz, and rewarding customers
Our foray into WeChat and our first integration was for a client that wanted to ‘reward’ customers for following a brand. This is similar to some of our other social vending activations – ultimately provide a great experience, and enable customers to sample products or receive rewards for engaging with a brand. The only difference being that instead of triggering the social vending machine(s) through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, we’re using WeChat.
The process for the end customer is stunningly simple. They can simply open the app on their phones, scan a QR code on screen, and they’re instantly following the brand or business.
Even better, at the very instant they do so, the digital vending machine can be notified in real time and can start to dispense the item(s).
Using We Chat Payments for customer purchases
The more traditional use of We Chat in regular vending machines selling products for cash is simply an alternative to a card or cash payment (we don’t like cash though ;D). The customer simply selects the items they want to purchase, and are then presented with a checkout screen on the vending machine itself, showing the various payment options.
Similar to Apple Pay using NFC or Twint in Switzerland using QR codes, to support We Chat Payments there would be a QR code on-screen – the customer would scan this with their WeChat app, and it would immediately debit their WeChat account / associated payment method and the vending machine would dispense the items.
Can it be used on a standard vending machine?
That’s an interesting question. In short, yes. But you require a bit of extra hardware. We’ve developed a module that can be supplied to operate over the standard MDB protocol to enable WeChat functionality and payments to be retrofitted to most standards-compliant vending machines.
This would mean that instead of showing the payment QR code on screen, it would be shown as a standalone QR code on the machine itself. There is one catch – this being a generic code, it’s not possibly to specify the amount to be paid at the time of performing the transaction. It therefore operates slightly differently to our standard flow on our digital vending machines – similar to our cryptocurrency/bitcoin payment support, the customer needs to select how much to send, and this amount is then added as ‘credit’ on the vending machine – enabling customers to subsequently select items for purchase as they would had they simply inserted coins instead.
Hopefully this provides a brief insight into WeChat and WeChat Payment support on vending machines – if you have any questions, we’re always here to help make your vending dreams come true 😉