WeChat’s launch of its mini-programs feature earlier this year generated a lot of hype.
This feature allows users to access ‘light’ or mini apps without needing to exit the WeChat ecosystem – in effect keeping everything in-house. WeChat mini programs give developers the ability to create simplified lower-cost apps, and provide WeChat users with the convenience of apps that do not require installation.
Now several months on from the launch, we take a look at some recent updates and changes.
How the min-programs feature is faring
According to China Internet Watch, the highest areas of penetration through the WeChat mini-programs feature in 2017 include mobile payments, maps, e-commerce and online music.
WeChat has also launched some new developments surrounding mini-programs – here are some of them.
- The QR codes associated with the mini-programs are now more user-friendly. Instead of looking like a square bar-code, they are now more pictorial and meaningful for users. They can also be accessed through long-pressing as well as scanning.
- The mini-program size has increased from 1MB to 2MB.
- WeChat has lowered the entry barrier for individual third-party developers, without the need for a Chinese business licence – which could be good news for both digital marketing agencies and small businesses lacking coding capabilities.
- While an official account could previously only be linked to five mini-programs, this has been increased to ten by the same developer and three from other entities.
- Mini-program cards (picture and text) can be added to WeChat articles to direct users to mini-programs.
- Mini-programs can now have the same name as an official account, providing easier access and better consistency.
- The mini-program now has greater analytics capability. This includes stats on user location and other data. A new ‘mini-program near you’ feature also allows users to find nearby services.
- The retail management feature has been moved to the mini-program from official accounts, which could be good for smaller retailers.
Benefits of WeChat mini apps
Users in China are accustomed to using WeChat for daily activities and payments. This means that running mini-program services could provide digital marketers and businesses with access to a wider audience (given WeChat’s massive user-base) while making it easier for users to pay.
WeChat’s ongoing updates are of course designed to improve on the existing mini-program concept.
How one mini-program works in practice
A typical example of the feature in operation is that of the cashless bicycle-sharing service Mobike. Riders can now perform all the activities they need to do for bike-hiring through the WeChat mini-program.
This includes opening the app, scanning the QR code on the bike, entering a deposit and waiting for bike to unlock before riding off. Once the bike is returned, the hire fees are deducted from the deposit – making the whole experience pretty much seamless.
Need some assistance in using mini-programs?
If you are interested in learning more about WeChat’s mini-program feature, and how it could boost your digital marketing to China, contact our multi-lingual marketing team.