TOKYO: WeChat's payment functionality is at the heart of the mobile revolution in Chinese consumer culture, according to a Tencent executive.

Davis Lin, Corporate Vice President of WeChat's parent company Tencent, discussed at the recent Advertising Week Asia event in Tokyo how the messaging app has become indispensable to many Chinese consumers.

"In China we always say when you change your mobile handset, the only app that you really need to have is WeChat," he said. (For more, including how brands are taking advantage of user behaviour data, read Warc's exclusive report: How China's WeChat is leading chat apps into the future.)

"We're moving from social communication to payment, and utility, and commerce, and service," Lin added.

"We have made, I think, the very first successful transition (for chat apps) of being a true connector – connecting not just people to people, but connecting people to business."

He was quick to downplay any comparisons between WeChat and Facebook, which offers superficially similar products in Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.

"I think we are Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp alike on the instant messenger and social," he conceded, before adding: "And we are Netflix, Spotify, Activision, PlayStation-ish on the gaming and entertainment, and then we have PayPal built-in into our system, and then we have utilities."

Having all these functions available within WeChat sets it apart from regional rivals such as LINE and Kakao which look to it for inspiration.

"We literally have taken the meaning of 'connector' in instant messaging and social to connecting everything – that's really the essence of what we're doing," said Lin.

"Sometimes it's just you to a taxi driver, but a lot of time it is you to your friends or colleagues.

"When you go to lunch together, you don't have to pull out your cash. Someone can pay through WeChat and then you WeChat the remaining balance to your friends – that is a very common behaviour in China."

Data sourced from Warc