All About WeChat Mini-Programs

What are Mini-Programs and How do They Work?

WeChat mini-programs act as sub-applications within the larger WeChat ecosystem. They’re like smaller, more basic apps that function within a larger app (WeChat). These programs provide users with additional, advanced features to take advantage of as they utilize the WeChat service. Depending on which program you select, it may help you with task management, locating and using coupons, or a variety of other tasks.

Because Tencent– the Chinese tech giant who runs WeChat– opened up more APIs to developers in 2018, mini-applications have become more complex. Some are even similar to larger and more complex native apps despite their sub-app status. 

The History of Mini-Programs

Tencent launched mini-programs in January of 2017 in order to provide WeChat users with the option to add the functionality of stripped-down apps to their WeChat messaging experience. Users could now rely on a sort of one stop shop for a host of mobile needs; there were mini-programs for gaming, shopping, and even government services.

Since then, the growth in popularity concerning mini-programs has been exceptional. WeChat’s mini-program offerings are rapidly nearing the scale of more traditional app stores. The mini-program ecosystem currently harbours one million of these sub applications; that renders it about half as massive as the Apple App Store (which has taken the better part of a decade to cultivate). Keep in mind that it took Apple five years to reach one million apps available in the app store; it’s taken WeChat just one.

Pros and Cons of Mini-Programs

The Pros

  • Mini-programs don’t require as much storage space as traditional applications do
  • Mobile phone users can more conveniently switch between activities since all mini-programs are located within a larger ecosystem
  • Mini-programs load faster than native apps
  • WeChat boasts over one billion monthly users that need to access messaging, shopping, booking, and a host of other services– the platform is massive and the potential for exposure is vast

The Cons

  • Mini-programs cannot send out push notifications
  • Mini-programs cannot be shared on user’s WeChat timelines
  • Mini-programs must be developed using a specific code
    • Developers must work with wxml and wxss rather than more traditional options like css and html
  • Mini-programs only work when accessed through WeChat

Why You Should be Using Mini-Programs

Mini-Programs are a fantastic way for you to market your products or services to over one billion individuals. No matter how hard you work on marketing, and no matter how much money you funnel into it, nothing aside from a herculean effort will ever yield you that kind of exposure. When you elect to create a mini-program, you’re choosing to leverage the popularity and convenience of WeChat.

Those short on funds will also be glad to know that the process of developing a mini-program is decidedly cost-effective. Because content is so easily customizable, you’ll also be able to maintain a strong sense of brand independence; and, due to WeChat’s structure, it’s easy for you to set up several mini-programs devoted to different promotions and services. 

Real-World Impact

How Users in China are Using Mini-Programs

The Chinese people have long relied on WeChat as a primary form of mobile communication– it’s the nation’s most popular messaging app. With the introduction of mini-programs, the platform has shifted to serve a pivotal role in the daily lives of the Chinese population.

Now, users in China can use a WeChat mini-app to do nearly anything that we’d need to switch native apps to complete in America. You can hail a cab with little more than a quick tap on your screen; you can shop online while you wait in line to pick up food that you ordered through your mobile device (using– you guessed it– yet another mini-program). With over one million mini-programs to choose from, Chinese users aren’t lacking in choices or variety. 

Success Stories of Company-Wide Mini-Program Deployment

According to WeChat, 95% of eCommerce platform brands have recognized the value of the marketplace and moved to create mini-programs. Even fashion powerhouses like Givenchy have reaped the rewards of taking advantage of the platform; the company put out an exclusive collection for mini-program users that sold out within 72 hours of launch.

Uniqlo, a popular and more affordable fashion brand, also developed a mini-program. The brand was seeking to recruit new buyers and incentivize consumers to sign up for membership programs and email lists– and it worked. 72% of visitors through the mini-program signed up for email marketing alerts.

Utilizing Mini-Programs for eCommerce

From a marketing standpoint, it’s clear to see the benefits of mini-programs. Companies and app developers get the advantage of a captive audience to market products and services to. 

WeChat mini-programs are also especially beneficial in reaching citizens living in second, third, or fourth tier cities. JD.com’s mini-program captures over 50% of its mini-program users from tier three or smaller cities; data collected by the company suggests that mobile users in tier 3 and 4 cities gain access to the internet and to WeChat later than users in tier 1 cities. Mini-programs tend to be favored in these smaller, slower areas.

WeChat mini-programs have also facilitated a new sort of purchase layout– group-buying deals. These deals allow members within chat groups to pitch in funds toward large purchases that individual users may not be motivated to make; if you’re looking to sell products or services that may feel out of reach for the average mini-app user, this is a great way to drive sales in spite of that. 

With more than a billion active monthly users, it’s clear to see that the exposure offered to retailers through WeChat mini-apps is invaluable. The number of people who will be exposed to your products or services through WeChat alone is staggering; and in the world of eCommerce, it’s certainly something that no serious brand should overlook. 

If you’re interested in taking the plunge into the world of WeChat sub applications, contact Periphery to set up your mini-program today. Our expert team will be glad to help you navigate the ups and downs of setups and get you on track for a successful mini-program experience.