Tuesday 1 September 2020

Spotlight on the Charlesworth WeChat Gateway - shortlisted for the 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing

Charlesworth logo

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of eight for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  The winners will be announced on 16 September at the opening of the ALPSP 2020 Virtual Conference. In this series, we learn more about the finalists.

In this post, we learn more about the Charlesworth WeChat Gateway.

Tell us a bit about your organization.

The Charlesworth Group is recognised globally as a trusted partner for STM Publishers for sales, marketing representation, technical solutions and consultancy in China. Charlesworth is also a leading provider of language editing and author services globally through its Charlesworth Author Services division. We provide services to Publishers and Institutions, supporting thousands of authors each year.

Charlesworth is a family-owned business, established 90 years ago as a bookbinder. Throughout the decades our focus has been on publishing services. We have offices in the UK, US, Ukraine and have had an office in China for over 20 years.

What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

WeChat is the most dominant social app in China, often referred to as China’s super app because of the breadth of functionality the app offers across communication and eCommerce. It currently has 1.15 billion monthly active users, who spend on average 82 minutes per day using the app and make 1 billion transactions a day. The WeChat environment is moving from being a walled garden of messages and posts for followers to integrating more third-party applications into the app and creating more possibilities for content discovery via its search tool.

The Charlesworth WeChat Gateway is a web-based content marketing and author communication platform, used for managing author communication within the STM workflow through WeChat.
Simply put, WeChat Gateway allows publishers to integrate their systems into the WeChat environment and create user journeys for China-based authors that replicate the slick e-commerce stores those authors are used to within WeChat.

WeChat is heavily used by academics and it is far quicker and more convenient for a Chinese author to engage with a Publisher via WeChat, instead of having to load a webpage hosted outside of China.

screenshot image WeChat Gateway

The Gateway has three core components which allow a Publisher to be present on the WeChat platform and engage with their authors:

  • API integration platform – the Gateway allows a Publisher to integrate their backend systems. Currently, the Gateway is connected with journal submission systems. This allows a Publisher to send unique customised paper status notifications to authors or allow them to self-check 24/7. The configurable chatbot delivers all of these messages in Chinese. This integration deepens author communication and reduces queries on paper status from authors. 
  • WeChat marketing platform – marketeers can use the Gateway content hub to directly manage and upload marketing content into the Publisher WeChat account.
  • Publisher Analytics Dashboard – WeChat Gateway incorporates an analytics dashboard that extends and enriches the standard reports available from WeChat itself, providing deep data on follower behaviour, growth and content engagement.  

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

Charlesworth has teams based in China, the UK and Ukraine. Together, these teams use agile methodologies to continually understand and respond to the needs of Chinese authors and Publishers globally.

The team focused on the development of the WeChat Gateway is made up of Andrew Afonin, IT Director who leads a development team in both China and Ukraine, Andrew Smith, Product and Marketing Director who leads teams in the UK, led by our Product Manager Jean Dawson and in China, led by Kelly Zhang. 

We utilized WeChat software development tools as a base to create Gateway but our Product teams extended and created new functionality; creating a platform that is not available within the WeChat software tool offering. Our resulting Gateway software creates an omnichannel solution for our clients, allowing us to connect multiple external systems to the Gateway which can then feed out as a personalised notification data stream to different WeChat author accounts. The Gateway has servers in both China and outside; these servers manage the data flow in and out of China to ensure the Gateway powers a quick response to China-based authors.

The Gateway is continually being developed to bring on board new system integration and to add additional features. The speed of change in China is at a lightning pace, so our teams are continuously monitoring trends and talking to authors to ensure the product is developed with user needs at its core.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

China-based authors are expected to use the standard tools and workflows offered by STM Publishers globally. This ignores the fact that the Chinese web and the most commonly used apps in China are very different from those in the west. China is a mobile-first market and in many ways, the Chinese leapfrogged earlier web technology, which means that email is not the dominant form of communication. A Deloitte survey from 2018 shows that only 33% of Chinese users check their email daily, while 88% check their instant messaging apps daily. Therefore email is not an ideal form of communication. Instead, social messaging apps are the key form of communication and academics use these apps to communicate, promote and discuss their research.

Publisher tools are usually based outside of China and designed with users in North American and Europe in mind. Users in China, accessing these tools on their mobile, can struggle with both connectivity issues and navigating the user interface. 

Charlesworth, through the WeChat Gateway, helps STM Publishers to integrate their services into the WeChat environment. It helps to solve the issue of communication with Chinese authors by powering interfaces that replicate the Chinese eCommerce experience and deliver updates in Chinese. Initially, we have focused on integrating article submission notifications, so a China-based author can receive all the status notifications about their paper in WeChat. These notifications can then be linked to the content in WeChat. For instance, an acceptance message can be linked to author promotion content, creating a great experience for authors.

For Publishers, the Gateway is a tool that can be easily configured without a need to understand WeChat or speak Chinese. The Gateway can be used by a marketing team and the chatbot allows a Publisher to configure the messages which are sent to the author.

What are your plans for the future?

Our vision for Gateway is to integrate the whole STM publishing workflow into WeChat.

Through our partnership with Editorial Manager, we will be able to offer authors submitting their paper to EM Publishers the ability to check article status notifications in WeChat from submission to final decision. Through our ingest relationship, we will also be able to join this up further, so authors can receive notifications during both language editing and article submission and review, without the need to complete a full resubmission to Editorial Manager. 

We are continuing to integrate different systems and satisfy new use cases to create engaging user journeys for China-based authors in WeChat. Our next steps are to look at how an author can submit and manage their article via WeChat and receive notifications across the whole author journey. This includes post-acceptance. For instance, on publication, we want to be able to deliver updates to the author on the citations to their article, usage and support in promoting and marketing their research. We are engaging with multiple publishers, looking at simplifying the China-based author experience through WeChat exclusively, rather than asking them to access multiple platforms.

We are building a new mobile dashboard that allows authors in WeChat to submit papers seamlessly, initially for our language polishing service, but this module will have wider application. We are also developing a voice-recognition feature so authors can request information via WeChat about their article submission or published article.

The platform has been designed to integrate with other social media apps. WeChat has been our focus and continues to be so but we plan to integrate other social messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Line into the Gateway to deliver services to authors based outside of China.  For further information, please visit: http://www.cwrepresentation.com/

You can hear from all of the Finalists at the ALPSP Awards Lightning Session on Tuesday 8 September. Visit the ALPSP website to register and for full details of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2020.
The 2020 ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing are sponsored by PLS.

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