Our quick-fire guide to WeChat mini programs

Since their introduction in 2017, WeChat mini programs have taken the platform by storm. In the space of just 2 years, there are now 2.3 million mini programs, with 230 million daily active users (DUAs) – numbers that already rival the Apple App Store (2.1 million apps) and Google Play store (2.6 million apps), both of which have been around for over 10 years.

But should you jump on the bandwagon – or is the mini program market far too crowded for you to compete?

In this quick-fire guide, we’ll tell you exactly how WeChat mini programs work, when you should use mini programs, and how to be heard above the noise.

How do WeChat mini programs work?

WeChat mini programs are essentially small apps within an app. Living solely within the WeChat platform, they can fulfil many of the same functions of standalone apps, despite only being a fraction of the size. For example, there are mini programs that allow you to hail a cab or car-sharing service, order meals and tickets, and purchase goods.

WeChat mini programs are limited to 10 MB (not counting image, audio and video files, which are hosted on the server), and because of their compactness, they can be loaded quickly without eating up much data, and they don’t require any prior installation. This means they can also be developed faster and with fewer resources than native apps.

WeChat mini programs are also highly accessible, with a whopping 60+ user access points, including being shared by users, via WeChat advertising or QR codes, or via an official account link. Users can also pin their favourite mini programs to their homepage so they can revisit them easily in future.

When should you use a WeChat mini program?

WeChat mini programs users are predominantly female (71%) and 30 years old or below (60%), so if young women are a key demographic for you, you should certainly consider creating a mini program. But what should you do with your mini program?

Most WeChat mini programs can be classified into one of four groups: e-commerce, games, communication and utility.

E-commerce

One of the most obvious ways of utilising a mini program is by building an online store. Indeed, users are able to complete closed-loop transactions – from discovering to browsing, checking out and paying for items (with WeChat pay) ­– all within one mini program.

Because they can be downloaded so quickly, they’re perfect for impulse shopping. During the mid-year shopping festival 618 (18 June) alone, 53 million new users used WeChat mini programs, and sales increased by 66 times.

While it’s possible to achieve similar functionality with H5 pages, mini programs have several advantages over H5 pages, in that they have many more access points (as mentioned earlier), they are much easier to share among friends, and they tend to load much faster due to their small size.

It’s worth mentioning that users tend to make smaller purchases on WeChat mini programs, with 54% of users spending 500 RMB or less per month. So if your products tend to be more than 1000 RMB, you may not get too much traction on a mini program, and may be better off investing in a native app instead.

Games

Games are the most popular category of WeChat mini programs, with about 42% of users using mini programs to play games. On average, users access games 6.4 times per day, and spend 17.4 minutes playing games every day, so engagement is particularly high when it comes to games.

As a brand, you could potentially harness this engagement, using a game to create an extra touchpoint and build brand equity. You could even gamify your product, if your product lends itself to it – for example, if you’ve developed an app that helps people learn English, you could create a simple English-learning game within a mini program to help drive customers towards your more developed app or website.

Communication

A WeChat mini program can also make an excellent information channel, with many bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers and news outlets using mini programs for content distribution. Brands could therefore use mini programs to keep customers up to date on the latest news, and to provide useful, relevant information that addresses their pain points.

One advantage that WeChat mini programs have over official account pages is they are interactive, meaning brands can establish a two-way dialogue with their customers. This allows brands to offer more personalised customer service within their mini programs.

Utility

Many people use WeChat to fulfil utility needs. They can, for example, pay utility bills, rent bikes, pay for public transport, access healthcare and more.

If your business provides some sort of utility service, WeChat mini programs can be used to offer accessible online services. Location-based services technology also means mini programs can easily direct customers to offline events and stores.

How do you drive users to your WeChat mini program?

While mini programs are much cheaper to develop than a native app, they still require a significant investment, both in time and resources, to do well. Depending on your business needs though, it can be a very worthwhile investment, as their accessibility, interactivity and high level of functionality help to ensure a good return on investment. It’s also worth remembering it’s relatively early days for the mini program, meaning their functionality may broaden as they become even more popular.

All that said, you still have to drive users and traffic towards your mini program. So how do you compete with the millions of other mini programs out there?

Here are a few hot tips to help drive users to your WeChat mini program.

Leverage sharing capabilities

While WeChat doesn’t allow users to share mini programs in their Moments feed, it does allow them to share mini program links to individuals and groups. Indeed, this is by far the most popular user access point, with 35% of users accessing mini programs via shared links.

Find ways to incentivise users to share your mini program, whether that’s by offering group buy discounts (like Pinduoduo do), allowing customers to purchase gift cards or virtual gifts, or encouraging user-generated content.

Don’t skimp on functionality

The flipside of mini programs being quick to download is that users tend to delete them very quickly too. Brands need to do what they can, therefore, to ensure users stick around, and this means being especially mindful of the functionality and user experience (UX) of the mini program.

Think about what the most important functions are that your mini program needs to fulfil, and focus on getting those right – you may even want to split your core functionalities over several mini programs if the 10 MB limit is too much of a constraint. Ensure navigation is easy and intuitive, and that you don’t have things like blank screens or login walls that can make users bounce.

Give users incentives to use the mini program

As well as giving users incentives to share the program, you should also give them incentives to use the program to keep them coming back. The convenience factor of mini programs can be a big draw, while group coupons and discounts can also significantly influence shopping decisions.

WeChat mini programs have come a long way in just two years, and all signs indicate they’re only going to keep growing in popularity. Now could be the perfect time to get acquainted with mini programs so you’re well set up and prepared for any future developments.

WeChat Marketing 101 guide

WeChat marketing 101

If you are looking to market and sell to Chinese consumers online, there’s simply no way around WeChat. For international businesses, WeChat offers many effective ways to reach and engage Chinese consumers and turn them into loyal customers. Sinorbis has put together this free WeChat guide to help you market your business successfully on China’s super app.

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