WeChat, the popular messaging app made by Tencent, is pushing even further into mobile commerce territory.

Tencent added support for any brands to allow customers to purchase items or services inside the app. It works for both in-store payments (where retailers will likely scan a QR code generated by your order inside WeChat) or for purely online purchases that’ll be delivered to you later.

WeChat users in China can now find this option inside some brands’ official accounts. It works only with ‘service accounts’ which are designed to support companies and retailers in offering things like loyalty cards, customer service, and online selling. An example of the new in-app purchases in WeChat can be seen in the account belonging to Pacific Coffee, a chain of stores that rivals Starbucks and Costa. Within Pacific Coffee’s brand account in WeChat, there’s the option to buy drinks.

It looks like this: Customers can then select the type of drink, size, number of cups, and also the payment method. In this case, those in need of caffeine can pay via WeChat Payments or Pacific’s own prepaid card.(update: A Tencent representative points out this should be called “Weixin Payments“, referring to the app’s Chinese name, as it’s not available to overseas users).

Here are  a few screenshots (from TechInAsia): From messaging to mobile commerce – WeChat has done ecommerce before with things like flash sales of Xiaomi phones and paying for taxi rides.

WeChat-payments-for-brands-and-retailers-in-China-1 WeChat-payments-for-brands-and-retailers-in-China-2 99826808 WeChat-payments-for-brands-and-retailers-in-China-3

And Tencent already has Weixin Payments in place as the messaging app’s main epayment option.

The addition of a framework for in-app purchases allows the app to take the functionality mainstream to all verified vendors, whether they’re big name brands or ordinary small businesses. Now it’s a case of waiting for retailers, ecommerce sites, and other companies to make use of it.

Lots of big-name companies have WeChat service accounts – from McDonalds to Qunar, Starbucks to Xiaomi. Tencent’s opening up of the purchasing system to brands will open up the possibility of other integration, notes the Tencent Tech blog.
This includes integration with other Tencent services such as daily deals, Dianping listings, and Tencent’s Yixun estore.

WeChat’s tie-up with a taxi app saw two million people pay for taxi rides in one busy day last month, so the scope is there for the messaging app to become a viable way for people to pay for things – both from home and while in-store.

This latest roll-out by WeChat is yet another threat to Tencent arch-rival Alibaba.

The e-commerce titan wants its own ewallet app, Alipay, which has 100 million registered users, to remain China’s top epayment method. But WeChat, as a social app, is in a lot more people’s pockets than Alipay, and Tencent wants everyone to use it for far more than just chatting.

Well, it seems the battle of the titans just started.

Slap in Alibaba’s face, these merchants can now have a web-based online dashboard where they can create and manage a WeChat store within certain parameters laid out by Tencent. Allowing major brands to open stores inside WeChat was a threat to Alibaba’s Tmall, and now the inclusion of smaller merchants is a challenge to Alibaba’s Taobao.

In Tencent’s most recent quarterly report, the company revealed that WeChat has grown to 396 million monthly active users.
It also revealed that mobile games on WeChat and QQ brought in RMB 1.8 billion (US$289 million) in revenue in Q1 this year.

As for Alibaba, the company recently took a 50 percent stake in Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club, winners of last year’s Asian Champions League, for 1.2 billion yuan ($192 million).

Which leads me to search and find this great Infographic! WeChat vs Alibaba (view next post)

Read more: Top Chinese messaging app makes big ecommerce leap with opening of WeChat stores
Read more: Starting from today, Chinese consumers will be able to buy almost anything inside WeChat

TechinAsiaand CNBC