Starting off as a simple messenger app, WeChat has now become the 5th most-used app in the world, with over 1.1 billion MAU worldwide. In view of WeChat’s success, Tencent hopes to go beyond social networking and transform WeChat into an enclosed all-in-one ecosystem for its users. A huge part of this strategy is one of WeChat’s newer functions, The WeChat Mini Program.
In January 2017, Tencent introduced WeChat Mini Programs, further stretching the functions of WeChat since the last big addition of WeChat Pay in 2013.
What Are WeChat Mini-Programs?
WeChat Mini Programs are sub-applications within the WeChat ecosystem that allow users to access any Web App by without leaving WeChat.
There are plenty of ways to access these mini-programs. Whether it be through a direct search, scanning a QR code, or through links on a WeChat official account. Users can also explore WeChat Mini Programs based on their location with LBS technology through the ‘Mini Programs Nearby’ function.
Simply click the Mini-Program Option (Left) and in the next menu click mini-programs nearby (Right)
With a small file size of just 10MB (excluding pictures, videos, and sounds hosted on the server), WeChat Mini Programs do not require any installation and can be loaded much faster than traditional native apps. Through WeChat Mini Programs, Android users can now access web applications without needing to access the Google Play store, which is blocked in China.
WeChat Mini Programs have attracted over 700 million users in total, with over 230 million DAU. The number of DAU is expected to increase to 350 million DAU by the end of 2019. (from aldwx.com《2018年微信小程序行业发展白皮书》). Considering only 800 million of China’s population has access to the internet, WeChat Mini Programs are a great success.
In 2 years’ time, the total number of WeChat Mini Programs available has exceeded 2.3 million, from more than 200 industry segments according to Aldwx.com. In comparison to Apple’s App Store with 2.1 million apps and The Google Play Store with 2.6 million apps as of early 2019. As of June 2019, over 180 WeChat Mini Programs have exceeded 5 million MAU.
The number of WeChat Mini Programs has quickly caught up to the total number of apps on both the app store and Google Play.
How are WeChat Mini Programs different from WeChat App?
In case you are wondering, here are some user demographics for comparison. While it seems mini-programs are not doing very well, sub-application is still a relatively new market and is expected to grow.
The Types of WeChat Mini-Programs
WeChat Mini programs are diverse in their appearance, features, and purpose. However, they can mostly be classified into 4 distinct groups: Games, News, Utility, and E-Commerce. While there are other apps that don’t necessarily fit into these categories make up the bulk of WeChat Mini Programs. Let’s take a look at each in the sections below.
Types of WeChat Mini Program: WeChat Mini Games
First introduced on 28 December 2017, WeChat Mini Games are miniature games within WeChat that can be accessed through the discover tab with no installation. They’ve proved incredibly popular as you can see from the graphs below!
WeChat Mini Games are clearly on an up-trend as can be seen from the charts above
There are currently over 7,000 mini games and over 100 million DAU. In December 2018, the average daily usage is 6.4 times and daily average online time is 17.4 minutes according to Aldzs.com.
Example of WeChat Mini Games – Jump Jump (Tiao Yi Tiao)
Jump Jump is one of the 15 pilot mini games developed by Tencent. Since its release on 28 December 2017, it topped the aldzs.com Index Chart consecutively for almost 300 days. In the first 3 days, Jump Jump accumulated 400 million players and 170 million DAU. This was largely due to the interactive nature of WeChat Mini Games.
At the ending scene of Jump Jump, a player’s score is ranked with friends from WeChat Moments. It gives players the incentive to achieve a higher score and rank above their friends. Players can also share their scores or invite friends to battle.
Tiao Yi Tiao was incredibly popular. If you have any friends in China it’s almost guaranteed that they’ve at least given it a try!
How Can Companies Make Use Of WeChat Mini Games?
First, developers of WeChat Mini Games can share 50% of the daily advertising revenue generated through the game with no upper limit. If you are lucky enough to be verified as a ‘creative game’ developer, you can even get 70% when daily advertising revenue is less than 2 million RMB.
Second, developers of WeChat Mini Games can share revenue from in-game purchases. For monthly transaction volumes below 500 thousand RMB, Tencent will not charge any service fees and the developer receives 100% of all in-app purchase revenues. For monthly transaction volumes above 500 thousand RMB, Tencent will charge 40% of the total amount as service fee and the developer retains the remaining 60%.
The current market size for WeChat Mini Games is 60 billion RMB and is expected to continue growing in the future. As mini-games account for 15% of the top-100 WeChat Mini Programs in May 2019, third highest by industry segments, it could be a good start for those interested in developing Mini Programs.
Types of Wechat Mini Programs: Utility & Transport
Since the introduction of WeChat Pay in 2013, Tencent has been promoting it as ‘more than an e-payment system’. This goal has been realized as WeChat has grown into an all-in-one platform.
For utilities, Tencent introduced WeChat City Services in Guangzhou in 2014. This function enables users to access 16 different public sector services, such as healthcare, education, utilities, etc.
Actions like settling utility bills and more can now be done on WeChat through Mini Programs. As the usage rate increase, the service area has expanded to 13 cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai.
The utility bill payment mini program was newly introduced in March 2019. In three months, this new feature has reached a high MAU of 147 million. In June 2019, WeChat Mini Program for utility bill payment has topped the charts in services categories by user count.
Simply Click the Public Services Button (Left) to see exactly what types of services you can access (Right).
Public transit has been the major focus among the sectors under Tencent’s “Project Offline: Public Transit in 2017”. As of 2018, 134 cities have created WeChat Mini Programs for Smart Transport, like The Shenzhen Metro and Shanghai Public Transport. Transport is the third largest category in WeChat Pay (after retail and catering services) and is the fastest growing with a 25-fold increase in the number of transactions from 2017.
WeChat users simply need to open the Mini-Program and scan the QR code to pay for their public transport
In 2018, WeChat’s DAU for bus service exceeded 200 million and WeChat’s DAU for metro service was over 50 million (From annual WeChat Conference 2019 ‘With Us’). On average, 250 thousand users use WeChat QR Code to access bus or metro services every minute during morning rush hour.
Public transport has become mostly cashless thanks to WeChat Pay
Apart from public services and public transit, there are many other online services that can be done with utility WeChat Mini Programs. Let’s check out an example below.
Example of WeChat Utility Mini Programs – Dian
Dian provides power bank rental service to over 10 million users from more than 70 cities through its WeChat Mini Program.
The LBS technology locates the nearest service point for users and the real-time feature shows usage time and the corresponding service fee. Using a WeChat Mini Program, users can instantly access the service anytime.
Dian stations like those shown above can now be found in dozens of cities across China
How can companies make use of WeChat Utility Mini Programs?
For businesses that provide utility service, like the above example, WeChat Mini Programs are a great choice. WeChat Mini Programs offer easily accessible online services and with built-in LBS technology, users can also easily enjoy in-person services.
Types of WeChat Mini Programs: News & Information
Following the trend of new media, WeChat has become an effective channel for content distribution. With the large user base of WeChat, the spread of information is much more efficient than traditional channels such as newspapers and media sites.
Under this new form of media, non-traditional sources and channels of information have become available, the most popular being the so-called “We Media” (also called self-media). We Media refers to the personalized and democratized blog and media providers hosted on China’s online platforms in general. These communicators can take the form of a blogger, a Youtuber, a Podcast host or a member of a Group Chat, etc. In China, everyone can create their own information channel.
The rise of social media and other platforms in China has led to the rise of new forms of media. We Media have become incredibly influential due to this phenomenon
Example of WeChat News Mini Programs – The People’s Daily
Major Chinese news media like The People’s Daily and Xinhua News have already created Mini Programs on WeChat. Through WeChat, instant updates can be spread to the readers in a very short period of time. In 2019, The People’s Daily had over 11 million subscribers on WeChat and was named the most influential WeChat Official Account on the platform.
The Mini Program for The People’s Daily allows users to access news quickly and share it to their contacts through groups or WeChat Moments.
How can companies make use of WeChat News Mini Programs?
While WeChat Official Account serves as a channel for releasing updates, WeChat Mini Programs serve as a platform for interacting with users.
Like news media, constant updates on Official Account and mini-programs keep users informed and newly released information can be spread rapidly through sharing on WeChat Moments and group chats.
Types of WeChat Mini Programs: E-commerce
WeChat Mini Programs have become a new channel for e-commerce in China and 18% of the Mini Programs on WeChat are dedicated to this category. Exploring the potentials of e-commerce Mini Programs will be a vital step to further commercializing WeChat.
WeChat serves as a great platform O2O due to the large DAU base and its smooth integration with WeChat Pay. This is why well-known shopping platforms like JD.com, Xiaohungshu, and Meituan also have their own Wechat Mini Programs. These Mini Programs serve a complementary function to their standalone apps.
The only difference is that with Mini Programs, customers can quickly complete a closed-loop purchase process without ever leaving WeChat.
JD’s Mini-Program had a significant impact on its sales during 618
On 618 (a mid-year shopping festival in China) alone, the number of orders via WeChat Mini Programs increased by 66 times and 53 million new users joined. Overall, total social commerce Mini Programs on WeChat increased by 68% from 2017 to 2018, resulting in a 25% increase in WeChat-driven traditional consumption, which is defined as non-information consumption, in 2018.
Sales of traditional goods like clothes, foods, and other goods on WeChat has been steadily increasing since 2016
Example of WeChat E-commerce Mini Programs – JD.com
JD.com is China’s second largest firm, behind Alibaba’s Tmall, for B2C e-commerce in China. JD.com has a standalone app on The Apple App Store and on Google Play, yet they also created their own WeChat Mini Program. As of June 2019, JD.com has over 120 million MAU on their WeChat Mini Program. JD.com’s mini program has the highest MAU count among the e-commerce category and 4th in all WeChat Mini Programs.
618 (18 June) is a mid-year shopping festival in China, many platforms including JD.com offer discounts on products. During 618 of 2018, JD.com recorded total transaction volumes of 159.2 billion.
With the small file size of WeChat Mini Programs, the pages can be loaded quickly without eating up storage or data. This helps to capture users’ impulse purchases.
Different pages across the JD.com WeChat Mini-Program
JD also launched a service called the Kepler Mini-Program Solution. This solution allows brands with a presence on JD.com to easily set up a WeChat Mini-Program with all the product information seamlessly transferred onto the platform. It essentially provides infrastructure to easily create a WeChat mini-program with data provided from a brand’s store on JD.com. Over 2,000 brands have joined the program as of April 2018.
How can companies make use of WeChat E-commerce Mini Programs?
For companies that provide products or services at about 200RMB, targeted mainly at female and the fashion industry. Mini programs are more effective if the company already has an Official Account on WeChat, which serves as an access point for 14% of the users.
The average monthly expenditure via WeChat Mini Programs is 200RMB. In terms of gender distribution, 71% of the WeChat e-commerce mini-program users are female as of H1 2018. In terms of industry distribution, fashion industry accounts for 29% and has the highest growth rate.
Most Users of WeChat Mini-Programs spend between 200-500 RMB per month
The Main Benefits of WeChat Mini Programs
#1 Access To WeChat’s Massive User Base
WeChat has over 1 billion registered users, meaning there are a lot of potential customers within the ecosystem. Mini Programs are a great way to differentiate yourself and provide an improved user experience for WeChat users.
#2 The Ability to Offer More For Less
WeChat Mini Programs are smaller, cheaper and in many ways better than a traditional app or website. With just 10MB, it has all the functions of a standalone app or website. It is also simpler and cheaper to develop compared to a native app. WeChat Mini Programs are better because they enable interaction between users and the company, not just one-way communication.
#3 Ready To Use
WeChat Mini Programs are highly accessible. As small sub-applications, Mini Programs require no prior installation and can be loaded quickly. Users can enter through the standalone access point or customized shortcuts on the homepage without leaving WeChat.
WeChat Mini Program – A New Type Of WeChat Advertising
WeChat Mini Program Advertising is a new addition to the many types of WeChat Advertising. Proper advertising can be useful in raising brand awareness and directing traffic to your WeChat Official Account and mini-program.
Wondering what the steps are to get started with WeChat Advertising? Check out our blog for more details!
Differences Between H5 Pages And WeChat Mini Programs
Before the introduction of WeChat Mini Programs, most WeChat advertisements used an H5 landing page. However, mini-programs offer much more functionality as compared to standard H5 pages.
WeChat Mini Programs provide a huge number of advantages over traditional H5 pages
In addition, to stand alone access points, users can now create shortcuts for WeChat Mini Programs on their homepage. We can expect to see a growing trend of mini-program landing pages on WeChat as more advertisers switch from H5. For a more comprehensive answer check out this post on Zhihu (in Chinese, you can always Goolgle translate if necessary 😅)