WeChat Mini-Program: E-Commerce Solution in China

In 2022, WeChat mini-programs are still a really hot topic in the e-Commerce ecosystem in China. WeChat reaches over 1 million mini-programs, half the size of the Apple Store. With more than 1.26 billion users in China in 2022, WeChat is still the main social media to consider when doing e-commerce.

In this blog post we will explain to you the phenomenon of WeChat mini-programs and check the best ways on how to develop mini-programs so that they will be most useful for your brand.

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What are WeChat mini-programs? 

WeChat mini-programs are actually like apps that are already included in the Wechat platform. It is like a « subprogram » in the WeChat ecosystem. It is the lighter version of a regular APP. These programs offer many services. The main advantage, of course, is the convenience as they are already within WeChat, so there is no need to install another app to open the program. And because it is a « mini » program it does not require a lot of storage space.

Among the various types of mini-programs, the most frequent are : 

  • E-commerce mini-programs (the most interesting for marketers)
  • Wechat mini-games
  • Music
  • Videos 
  • Contests
  • Lucky draws
  • H5 brochures
  • Newsletters

WeChat mini-programs in the philosophy of the company are based on the desire to make Wechat even more practical for its hundreds of millions users. It makes sure all users’ apps and cravings are but one click away. It is also a bargain for e-commerce business marketers who see it as one more way to get closer to their target market.

The strategy of simplifying target users’ life is also very clever because it allows WeChat to monopolize the user within the WeChat ecosystem rather than download other applications. This is all used to generate more and more traffic and create more of a monopoly for the parent company, Tencent.

wechat-promotion

Mini Program VS your own App

The main difference between a classic application and an own mini-program in mini-app is based primarily on the instantaneous aspect of the application and its simplicity compared to an application that will take longer to load to display a more complex page.

WeChat baby products

The e-commerce mini-programs have worked remarkably well. Chinese consumers have already adopted the changes brought by the innovations of these programs due to the eCommerce market being already well established in China and in particular on Wechat, their native app.

3 types of ads on WeChat

The WeChat mini-programs are decentralized, meaning that there is no space for searching all the mini-programs. Mini-program users can use the WeChat search bar, and the user can receive a recommendation from WeChat to find Wechat mini-programs based on their location (searching for nearby mini-program options) but they can not find them by approximative research (by theme or keyword for example).

Why develop a mini-program for your brand?

Mini-program development provides a new way for businesses to contact existing customers and attract new users and offer them a new experience within Wechat. They are easier to access and less constraining. The possibility of being able to invest more cheaply in mini-apps allowing customers to discover a service or product is very attractive.

KOL WeChat

Opportunity to test your offer before entering other e-commerce platforms

It is indeed a good idea for companies wishing to “test” their offer before going for the creation and implementation of an application in its own right with advanced features and more developer tools. Especially for startups whose budgets are often tight on project initiation.

Notably, when considering design for classic apps, it is necessary to adapt one app according to the operating system (IOS or Android) whereas, with this development in WeChat mini-programs, it is automatically adapted to different types of OS. However, these mini-programs can also be used by multinationals already well-established to create easy access to their platform for customers reluctant to install the independent native apps.

WeChat mini-programs are very user-friendly

In addition, since the application is managed by Wechat, it is faster to navigate from one page to another and is often more fluid than an independent app. This is a real advantage for companies that optimize the time customers spend on their mobile apps.

This is all the more true as the competition in e-commerce continues to be strong. Fluid web apps allow one to keep the attention of the customer rather than guide him to a competitor with a slow application with a laborious load.

Since mini-programs are integrated within the WeChat platform, it is easier for the program to access data that is interesting in terms of data, which also improves the company’s targeting capabilities and the analysis of actions. But this also optimizes the experience for the customer (easy access to payment for example, mini-games or discount vouchers).

Good marketing tool for other apps and official accounts

With a successful mini-program, customers will also be more inclined to download the full independent app (if it exists) to have access to the full experience and -why not- have access to special offers on this platform.

In addition, it leaves a feeling of great freedom to the customer, especially for services that he doesn’t need frequently enough to download the full app.

For example, regard JD.com, which specializes in electronic product e-commerce, an app users who needs a hairdryer, does not necessarily want to download the application for a single need, so the mini-program can meet this need without compelling him to install an app (this is valid for other areas: travel, food delivery, taxi order, etc.). This allows you to perform a task easily and quickly, with a faster loading speed.

Mini-programs are easily shareable

Thanks to the fact, that those mini apps and their new features are built-in WeChat framework, they are very shareable, which is an amazing feature for all marketers trying to reach our to existing and new customers.

Wechat mini-program can be shared on your WeChat account or other WeChat Official accounts, but also on WeChat Moments, in private messages or in WeChat groups. You can feature mini-games on your Wechat Official account, inviting people to join in one of your WeChat articles.

It’s especially useful for shops that want to display their products on their WeChat Official account and in livestreams about products held by Chinese influencers, where you can link specific product pages to the stream, that can be later opened with just one click on users’ phone.

Mini-programs are the new loyalty program

In terms of strategy, WeChat mini-program is very practical and efficient on O2O (Online to Offline) simply by setting up loyalty programs aka “E-Loyalty”. The mini-programs can serve as an entry point to an external app, highlighting the services of this application: the tracking of an order, special offers, and obtaining invoices…).

You can also invite your customers to WeChat mini-games, offering coupons and special deals which they can later use offline.

The mini-programs can serve as a test for both small businesses and even larger enterprises. Indeed the development of these programs is less expensive and less slow, it is much easier to change an aspect of a site or to offer a new service, all without the client needing to download an update of the mini-program.

Some companies have even invested in the development of several mini-programs in Mainland China to test different functions on their mini-program users.

wecaht QR code promotion

A strong example of mini-program success is McDonald’s which has released a specialized program for kids, a loyalty card program, a restaurant order program without queuing, and a home delivery program, all within WeChat native app. By offering lifestyle services to app users, McDonalds makes it easier than ever to purchase its’ products.

While mini-programs bring many benefits to businesses, they are also greatly beneficial to customers who can benefit from new ways of consuming, such as group shopping and group conversations, no matter if they live in bigger or smaller cities.

What are the drawbacks of WeChat mini-programs?

The first disadvantage of these programs is the storage capacity of the mini-app on Wechat (only two megabytes of data). This drastically reduces the design capabilities of the developers of these programs. This requires companies to compromise on the design and composition of apps which can potentially affect the customer experience.

However, this restriction of Wechat allows the fluidity and speed of these programs and their loading.

Twist-a-drink mini-programs cover

In addition, it is not possible to send push notifications to its target with a mini-program, and therefore it’s difficult to engage with customers.

Also, the capacity for sharing your content is limited to the WeChat app. The ability to “discover” an application is relatively limited because no database collects all mini-programs (as Apple can do with its AppleStore for example).

The payment on WeChat mini-programs is easy but not convenient for everyone

Only WeChat Pay is available to pay for purchases, which can sometimes be inconvenient for Alipay or even credit card daily active users. It is necessary to have an ICP License to be able to create a mini-program, which can be a disadvantage for small companies/startups or foreigners without a Chinese ID card.

Validation of the mini-programs by Tencent is mandatory, and it goes the same for any modification made after the first validation. In addition, the mini-program is subject to any modification that Tencent opened to apply at any time.

What about mini-programs performance?

After a slow start, WeChat programs boomed in the first months of 2018, mostly thanks to the explosion of addictive video mini-game programs. Today, WeChat has more than a million mini-programs (which equals half of the Apple Store), and 200 million DAUs, and 63% of WeChat users have used a mini-program at least once.

Additionally, users of mini-programs have gained confidence in the platform and feel safer now making their purchases on these small programs. In the first half of 2018, 95% of Chinese e-commerce companies created a mini-program for their business on WeChat (including JD, Pinduoduo, Mogujie, etc.).

Thanks to this boom, investments have started to climb – mainly in e-commerce and service programs. The growth of the business of companies and Key Opinion Leaders through its mini-programs was very quickly the source of attraction for new investors ani mini-program users.

Indeed, due to this fad, nearly 85% of the investments made on WeChat mini-programs were made on the first investment cycle with significant sums for a release of a brand new service that has never been tested before (more than 50% of the investments exceeded the amount of 10 million RMB and 25% were between 1 and 10 million RMB).

Investors have mainly been involved in the development of Chinese unicorns, such as IDG Capital, which was one of the first investors in e-commerce platforms such as Wish and Zhen Fund and among the first investors for the “Little Red Book” application (Xiao Hong Shu).

The industry’s behemoths have been more shy in their investment initiatives, with the obvious exception of Tencent getting involved with the project.

E-commerce opportunities: comparaison with H5 brochure

Mini Program shops are a new way to sell to Chinese people. It is slightly different compared to Wechat H5 shops in terms of capacity and development. The differences between shop H5 and shop by a mini-program are not numerous but relatively significant.

  1. First, is the loading time. Mini-programs are optimized for WeChat so they are faster, moreover, the number of steps between the choice of a product and the transaction is smaller than on an H5 page.
  2. Secondly, the mini-programs are easier to find than H5 pages. Indeed the mini-programs can be searched: by the search bar, by scanning a QR code, through sharing and sending to contacts, through an official wechat account of a brand, by the functionality “find the nearest” using geolocation of users’ phone, or by WeChat post. This allows the mini-program to gain visibility over H5 pages.
  3. Third, mini-programs are integrated into the WeChat ecosystem.
  4. Fourth, the development time, and the cost of developing your first mini-program are cheaper compared to H5.
  5. Fifth payment method, for WeChat mini-programs only WeChat pay is available while for H5 pages, all payments are accessible (WeChat pay, credit card, …).
  6. Sixth, it is more reliable and safe to use a WeChat mini program, since they are managed by Tencent, and their optimization and therefore security is more reliable than that of the H5 pages.
  7. Seventh, in terms of administration and speed, the H5 pages are more interesting, because the mini-program requires the validation of Tencent for their programming and modification, the administrative aspect is, therefore, more laborious than for the creation of H5 pages which are made independently of Tencent.

It is therefore important to evaluate the crucial points for your business to make the right choices between an H5 page and the creation of a WeChat mini program.

WeChat mini-programs – so what’s the consensus?

WeChat’s mini-programs have received a spectacular welcome, and have performed impressively over the first few years of their existence. Investments are flourishing and through maturation, and they promise to be able to develop even more useful and convenient features in order to optimize customer experiences on the programs. Without a doubt, they will contribute to forming the e-commerce digital experience of China tomorrow.

Trust a reliable WeChat marketing agency in China

The creation and implementation of a digital strategy based on WeChat’s mini-programs can boost the visibility of your company in China. It is important to think about what kind of role you want to give to the platform: advertising? E-shop? Exclusive content? Or do you want to play on the presence of KOL to promote your product/services? We can help you with all of the above services, contact us!

Here are our WeChat services:

SEO Agency China: Who are we?

Wechat Mini-Program – Frequently Asked Questions

How does a WeChat mini-program work?

WeChat Mini Programs are mini-applications that can be accessed through the WeChat ecosystem without leaving it. There is a variety of ways in which these programs could be found and used, ranging from direct searches to QR codes or links on an official account for more information about what they offer!

How much does it Cost to Create a WeChat Mini-Program?

Creating a WeChat Mini Program costs between 1,000 and 20 thousand dollars. The price will depend on what functionalities you are looking for.


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5 Comments

  1. Social commerce remains a form of commerce, but it follows somewhat different rules. Be creative! We give you some practical advice:

    Content is king! Remember that WeChat is a commerce platform with a social dimension. Provide content that makes users want to share it with their friends.
    Think of the commitment of great opinion leaders: key opinion leaders (KOL) or great opinion leaders are among the main sales drivers for Chinese products. These are celebrities, industry tycoons or ordinary people followed by a huge number of subscribers on WeChat, called wang hong. The Chinese consumer is generally more influenced by his peers than the average Western consumer.
    Be perceptive and creative in the selection of your products for your campaigns on the Chinese market. Offer special products that customers cannot purchase from other sales channels. In other words, personalized or limited edition products.
    To sum up, WeChat is the new way to access the Chinese market, to set up there to sell its products!

    If you wish to better understand and evaluate the social commerce market in China, we recommend that you contact Alain Graf, SG-E consultant responsible for China. We would be happy to work out with you a strategy to approach Chinese customers using social media.

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