WeChat mini-programs (MPs) are “sub-applications” within the WeChat ecosystem. They enable to provide advanced features to users such as e-commerce, task management, and coupons. More and more people use WeChat MPs in their everyday life. Whether it is to pay bills, play games, order a taxi or book a doctor’s appointment, there’s a mini-program for just about anything. And their prominence in the Chinese app economy means that mobile businesses need to take them seriously.
WeChat Mini-programs are sub-applications within WeChat’s ecosystem
How Mini-programs are different from APPs
The first thing that differs mini-programs from APPs is that, existing within WeChat at less than 10 MB in size, they run quickly and smoothly. Users can access them directly through WeChat, so there is no need to download an App.
Secondly; mini-programs are cross-regional. Apps have few geographical restrictions, while mini-programs are sure to work wherever globally WeChat is available.
How many people use WeChat mini programs?
WeChat still remains the most popular mobile social media platform in China. The number of Monthly Active Users (MAU) on the APP keeps growing. In June 2020, there were 1.20 billion Monthly Active Users. 6 out of 10 WeChat users use mini-program.
Data Source: huaon, daxue consulting analysis, Evolution WeChat MAU
At the 2020 WeChat Open Class Pro event in Guangzhou in January, WeChat mini programs recorded over 300 million daily active users in 2019. The usage was up 45% from the year before. The growth was fast in the beginning, but now it is starting to slow.
By the beginning of 2020, the number of mini-programs available through WeChat reached 3.2 million, with a user base of more than 840 million.
Data Source: huaon, daxue consulting analysis, Number of WeChat mini-programs
WeChat Mini-programs’ GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) increased from 600+ billion RMB in 2018 to 1,200+ billion RMB in 2019, with a 100% annual growth rate. In 2019, each person installed 56 Apps on average. However, they used more than 60 WeChat Mini-programs. The convenience of MPs makes them more popular than Apps and led to such a great success.
The penetration rate of WeChat Mini-programs
Building an ecosystem is a central strategy in the success of the Chinese tech giants. Tencent has accelerated development into this space by launching Mini-programs to the public in January 2017 on its messaging app WeChat, quickly followed by Alibaba. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) are actively using WeChat MPs to attract new users and make the usage of their platforms easier. In 2020 the users of BAT & ByteDance Mini-programs all surpass 100 million.
Data Source: Qianzhan, daxue consulting analysis, BAT & ByteDance mini-programs penetration rate
ByteDance, an emerging mobile App giant, is accelerating the development and promotion of its mini-programs. Compared to June 2019, its MAU has increased with 7.1% YoY growth rate.
“More and more brands consider their mini-programs more important than their brand site. As e-commerce mini programs do not really compete with marketplaces, they remain key to the e-commerce strategy of any brand as it is a more efficient way to convert comparing to brand sites and to also close the loop within WeChat‘s ecosystem”.Clement Ledormeur, the general manager of 31Ten
Micro, Medium and Macro Mini-program growth
From catching a train to split the bills, there are thousands of mini-programs that ease the life of people. Top mini-programs are related to entertainment and daily life tools. Mini-programs with over 5 million MAU are mainly for daily services, like video sharing and shopping. Gaming mini-programs tend to have over 1 million MAU.
Data Source: QuestMobile, daxue consulting analysis, Shares of WeChat mini-programs by purpose
Group buying is a leader among e-commerce WeChat MPs
Data Source: iresearch, daxue consulting analysis, Top 20 mini-programs for e-commerce
Pinduoduo is a leader among e-commerce WeChat MPs. It has rolled out a Wechat-based mini program that focuses on creating an online fashion shopping community for China’s younger consumers. Pinduoduo has developed its WeChat mini-program using the concept of social selling. It deployed two buttons on the interface with different colors that allow customers to choose what kind of buying method they would like to use, including group buy and individual buy.
JD attempted to fend off Pinduoduo and launched its’ MP too. JD’s WeChat mini-program Jingxi, a down-sized version of its standalone app, plays a key role in facilitating purchases. It enables friends to share products and promotions with one another. It is also a better fit for consumers in smaller-tier cities who may have cheaper phones with less memory and do not want to download another app.
Tencent is leading in terms of video MPs on WeChat
Tencent’s mini-programs make up three of the top 10 video mini-programs. While live streaming on WeChat isn’t exactly new, the key difference is the seamless integration with WeChat’s mini programs. Rather than relying on another platform to provide live streaming capabilities, Tencent’s solution is an H5 page embedded in a brand’s WeChat MP. This means viewers can click directly on links in the live-streamed video, which will direct them to the brand’s mini program.
Data Source: iresearch, daxue consulting analysis, Top 10 WeChat MPs for video
How to set up a WeChat Mini-program
WeChat MPs are open to individuals, businesses, government, media and other organizations. Firstly, the user should register an account and log in WeChat public platform. Then, the platform requires to fill in information including name, logo, introduction and service scope. Developer can use specific tools to develop and modify mini-program’s functions. In the end user should submit mini-program code to WeChat’s team to review. After approval, it will be released.
Data Source: aldzs, daxue consulting analysis, How new users enter WeChat mini-programs
Users can find a mini-program by navigating within WeChat account or scanning a QR code. The process of having a mini program takes only a few seconds as they use WeChat ID as logging information, so you don’t need to create separated accounts.
Who are WeChat mini-programs users?
Data Source: aldsz, daxue consulting analysis, users of WeChat mini-programs
30-39 year olds use WeChat mini-programs the most, but the user demographics are still relatively representative of China’s population.
Silver generation VS. Generation Z
The younger generation use MPs more for daily services & shopping, whereas the silver generation prefers to use tools & reading.
Source: QuestMobile, daxue consulting analysis, distribution of WeChat MPs by industry
Generation Z likes mini-programs related to eating, entertainment and travel. They are dynamic people who familiar with public transportation. Generation Z in China is always on the go and like to share moments from traveling and learn new things.
Silver generation mini-program usage
Xiaoniangao – the favorite mini-program of silver generation
Source: QuestMobile, daxue consulting analysis, Xiaoniangao users are, on average, much older than WeChat users.
Xiaoniangao (小年糕) is a photo-to-video user-generated-content tool. Users can easily create beautiful digital albums. Xiaoniangao identified the silver generation as the main targets and tailored the functions to satisfy their needs. Every album created in Xiaoniangao can be shared on WeChat. Other users can interact with the post: like, comment, follow. Sections like ‘health’ and ‘square dancing’ also appeal to the silver generation.
The interface is simple and fonts are big to make it easy to read. Being free is an essential element for the silver generation. Any fee or charge would greatly prevent them from using it.
Source: Daxue Consulting WeChat mini-programs report, The silver generation’s favorite content, topics & keywords on Xiaoniangao
How e-commerce platforms use WeChat MPs to boost sales
Cosmetics Multi-Brand – O2O e-commerce mini-program
Brand WeChat mini-program links users’ WeChat with their memberships, allowing users to access it conveniently and stay informed. Brands also set up its own WeChat-based live-streaming broadcast channels. It helps them to list all products featured in the live-stream, as well as introduce all topics, hosts, and products. Cosmetic brands widely use WeChat MPs as a part of O2O e-commerce in China to attract new customers. For example, complementary WeChat groups for beauty advisors and customers allow to further engage and discuss products and purchases.
Luxury Multi-Brand – Membership and Private Cart mini-program
Many well-known luxury brands also have become early adopters of WeChat MPs. Dior China, for example, uses mini-programs to build emotional connections with its audiences. It created a mini-program for Chinese Valentine’s Day, focusing on gift sharing. Each gift card had a love message on the cover, with the gift options of lipstick and perfume. Once purchased, the customer sent the card directly to their loved ones on WeChat and the gift could be picked up from a Dior’s retail store nearby. This example also shows how using mini-programs to work with, rather than independently of other channels to market, can offer even greater benefits to brands.
Moreover, luxury brands in China imply many tools to their WeChat MPs. For instance, with a unique QR code shared by sales assistants directly to WeChat, customers can access a shopping cart with preselected items tailored by experts specifically for their taste, needs and size. They also can review private cart details, choose in-store pick up or home delivery. Some MPs have cash back gift card progress indicator and perks & benefits over view for all membership tiers.
SMCP Group – membership mini-program saves time
WeChat CRM and Union ID binding activation for Sandro, Maje, and Claudie Pierlot Group, replaced the previous in-store registration process from 3 minutes to 20 seconds.
SMCP used a paper registration form in-store, then shop assistant input the information manually. The efficiency is extremely low and took an average of 3 minutes. After SMCP digitalized this progress, it allowed to finish the process within 20 seconds
Besides, existing members can view their account details and tier benefits. Backend integration & synchronization with SMCP’s ERP system, ensure the membership information displayed on the MP is always up to date.
WeChat mini-programs case studies
E-Commerce case – Suning
Suning is one of the largest e-commerce platforms in China. It gained positive reputation in terms of satisfactory delivery service and guaranteed product quality. Through WeChat MPs, Suning can communicate anywhere and anytime with customers. Suning has 12 unique WeChat MPs, targeting different customer groups. Between January 22nd and February 15th 2020, the number of users of Suning’s cloud store mini-program grew by nearly 300% from the previous year. During the same period, the number of payment orders increased by more than 500% from the previous year.
Source: Daxue Consulting WeChat mini-programs report, Suning WeChat MPs matrix
Fitness case – SuperMonkey
SuperMonkey is a fitness services brand founded in Shenzhen in 2014. The chain has 126 stores in China. In 2019 the company’s value was 1.66 billion yuan. It made 220,000 yuan in one hour on February 2020 when it released a fat-burning boot camp. This company actively use WeChat MPs to acquire new customers and have existing customers sign up for classes.
People can sign up for fitness classes and personal training through the mini-program. Users pay for one class at a time, with no membership fees. Also, users receive the entry code, check-in, and receive class pictures through the mini-program. As all admin work is done through the MP, there is no need for a front-desk.
Source: Daxue Consulting WeChat mini-programs report, SuperMonkey stores distribution
Takeaways for WeChat mini-programs
- Mini-programs have the advantage of simplicity. They are cheap to develop, and easy to add and delete.
- Being in the WeChat ecosystem, the high number of WeChat users already have low friction to start using mini-programs. Hence, the number of users is rising rapidly.
- Mini-programs are starting to become a part of life for more and more developers and WeChat users, competing with traditional apps and acquiring customers from traditional app stores.
- WeChat MPs are an important driver for WeChat’s growth in both user base and advertising revenues, from both Chinese and foreign brands.
- Brands can not only leverage WeChat mini-programs for e-commerce and gaming, but also for advertising.