WeChat mini-programs were launched in early 2017 by Tencent. They are ‘light’ or simplified sub-applications that sit within WeChat itself. This means that to make use of them, users do not need to exit the WeChat app or to download the programs.
Given the popularity of WeChat at almost a billion users, businesses involved in digital marketing in China should consider developing their own mini-programs.
Potential uses of mini-programs
The programs can be used for all kinds of activities – from m-commerce and paying bills, to making bookings and finding out where to recharge a Tesla car. Other uses include:
- Videos and music – watch online episodes of a favourite show by simply scanning a QR code.
- Voice translation programs – ideal for travellers wanting to communicate while overseas.
- E-commerce – retail mini-programs may be enabling WeChat to compete better with Taobao and Tmall.
- Travel audio guide – rather than go on a guided tour, international travellers can use the mini-guide to provide directions and show them around landmarks.
- Bike-sharing – to use Mobike bicycle sharing service for instance.
- Supermarket shopping –shoppers can scan items and pay instantly.
- Others – fast-food discount coupons, surveys, photo filters, and time-checkers for public transport.
Updates were made to WeChat mini-programs during the year. These included creating ‘pictorial’ and more meaningful QR-codes, increasing the size and analytics capability of mini-programs, and lowering the entry-bar for developers.
Acoording to Technode, a year after the launch, WeChat now has close to 600,000 mini-programs on the platform. The stats also show that 170 million users are making use of mini-programs daily, with about one-third of users coming from first-tier cities and half from second, third and fourth tier cities.
The benefits for businesses marketing to China
WeChat mini-programs are fairly similar to many other types of app. There are some specific advantages however.
For users, there is the convenience of instant access without the need to download.
For businesses marketing to China, the potential benefits include:
- The capacity to leverage off WeChat’s popularity, in turn increasing the opportunities for social commerce in China.
- The current fragmented nature of China’s app market and the banning of Google Play could make mini-programs a more viable option.
- Creating apps within WeChat could make them easier and cheaper to develop, especially for businesses that lack coding skills.
- M-commerce customers can be linked to public WeChat accounts, increasing the number of touch points businesses form with consumers.
If you would like to know more about developing mini-programs through WeChat, feel free to get in contact with our multi-lingual China digital marketing team.