If you’re not a regular a WeChat user (like most non-Chinese people) then you’re probably wondering what all this WeChat stuff is all about. I gave a talk in the UK last month to a group of developers in Bristol, UK who were baffled that a shop existed inside a chat app. Surprising?
So how can you use a WeChat Mini program for your business? Doing business in China as a foreign company is getting easier and easier. China has embraced e-commerce in a way that most people can’t imagine. China hopped straight onto cheap domestic smartphones and now gives e-commerce delivery in times the US can only dream of. WeChat is China’s daily life app and the one you need to be engaging with.
With all that WeChat has to offer, you can now utilise powerful WeChat Mini Programs to help your business reach millions of people daily – get more eyeballs on your offers and clicks on your offers to make sales.
Do I Need A WeChat Mini Program For My Business?
Do you need a WeChat Mini Program? Well, if you’ve ever considered how much an app can boost your sales and customer experience (or maybe you already have one?) then WeChat Mini Programs are definitely a strong option for you.
If you want to reach more Chinese customers, if you want to interact with them, if you want to engage them with your brand, then take some time to understand WeChat mini programs – If you want to sell more in China, then it is a sound and proved investment.
More than a WeChat official account, and more than an email news blast or a Facebook ad, WeChat Mini Programs can help you reach and retain both loyal customers and bring in new sales.
What Are WeChat Mini Programs?
So, let’s start from the start: What are WeChat Mini Programs? Also called ‘sub-applications’, Mini Programs are streamlined apps that exist entirely within the WeChat ecosphere. Mini Programs are easy to use, easy to make, and reach over 300 million Chinese consumers every single day. They can come as either reduced versions of full version native applications or WeChat-based versions of web apps.
Using simplified versions of “mini-apps” isn’t unknown to us outside of China – Facebook and Google (on Android) have mini apps as well. For Facebook, in-app services, like for Pizza Hut or Expedia, have existed for a while. But have you ever used one? For Android phones, Google has created Instant Apps that open and run directly from a website. Perhaps you’ve used these more. Think Google search as an app as opposed to hitting the site from a computer and you’re on the right track.
Inside The WeChat Ecosystem
The benefit of WeChat Mini Programs over Facebook or Google is the backing of the omnipresent and all powerful Chinese “daily life” application WeChat itself.
Nearly 1 billion people use WeChat every month. Yes, a billion. That is more than 3 times the entire population of the US – all inside the same ecosystem all day long. They chat. They buy. They sell. They research. They refer. All inside one single app – WeChat.
Nearly every person in China uses WeChat Pay to do everything from paying their water bills to buying their daily groceries. The power of WeChat Mini Programs comes from this integrated system: With everyone using WeChat already, having an app within that system, that seamlessly integrates with an online payment system already in the system as well…You see where we’re going.
What Can Mini Programs Do For WeChat Users?
So what do WeChat Mini Programs do? Just like most things in China, you can basically build any kind of WeChat Mini Program you like. Think about it this way: If you could build an app, a web-based application, or have any kind of e-commerce store, you can make that into a Mini Program. From shopping to bike-sharing or ride-hailing, to checking the air quality or the local (or international) cases of COVID-19, there’s a Mini Program for that.
How Do Your customers Find You?
Getting to a WeChat Mini Program is easy. Users can get to your Mini Program through an official WeChat account ( if you don’t know what that is we can explain), through the discover tab, using the native search feature, or by scanning a QR code. As we’ve said before, one of the biggest benefits of a Mini Program is that it lives inside WeChat. Potential customers don’t leave the app, they don’t download anything new. It makes navigating to, and using, your businesses program that much easier.
Now that you’ve got a better idea of what Mini Programs are, let’s talk about how they’re beneficial for your business.
The main draw of WeChat, WeChat Pay, and WeChat Mini Programs is the audience. In 2019, WeChat had over 1.1 billion active users. From those, over 300 million users were actively using WeChat Mini Programs on a daily basis, with a 160% year-on-year increase in transactions completed from 2018 to 2019. And these transactions? Ecommerce and other programs that utilised WeChat Pay bought in over 800 billion yuan (USD 115 billion) from users in 2019.
So, there’s a huge audience and quite a lot of money being spent through WeChat programs. But what else can these Mini Programs do for your business?
They can save you time and money. As Mini Programs are typically just 10MB in size, the time needed to develop and produce the programs is much less than developing a full application. Additionally, because they’re all run through WeChat, there’s also no need to produce iOS and Android versions. It’s thought that these sub-applications can generally ‘do’ about 80% of what native applications are capable of, but with just 20% of the development time. So, time saved during the development process and money saved by not having to develop two different applications -Easy…!
This small size and in-app integration also makes it a lot easier for new customers to find you and use your application. If they don’t need to download something new, there’s much more incentive to open and try your program. Because the Mini Programs are smaller in size, they run faster, giving your users a better user experience. And, in a country like China where app downloads across platforms are not always available, creating a Mini Program within WeChat is an instant way of ensuring you can get in front of your Chinese consumers.
Features like notifications, live streaming, offers, and social connections also make it easy for you to get in front of your target audience. Sharing Mini Programs within WeChat is easy, so if you create something your customers want to share, they’ll be able to do so within individual or group chats. Why is this such a killer feature? Everyone in China is on WeChat, so this means you can forward a mini app to a chat with a friend as easily as you would a photo or a link. This means that your mini app can benefit from a type of network marketing / influencer marketing that is currently unique to China. This feature totally reduces the friction between someone recommending you and a new lead having immediate access to you. It’s rocket fuel for your brand.
WeChat Mini programs are great for promotions and deals.
The ability to update the functions and details in realtime and broadcast to your buyers is a powerful tool for your marketing efforts.
You Can Be Dynamic With Your Offers
You can create coupons in your Mini Program to market particular offers and you can share news updates or maintain up-to-date company information easily. WeChat Mini Programs also allow you to create group-buying deals – often a hit with Chinese online buyers – and rush promotions. These deals can then be easily shared between people on WeChat, giving you yet more face time with your growing consumer base.
Also, let’s face it: Most of your competitors probably have one. An estimated 95% of China facing e-commerce brands have a WeChat Mini Program, so it makes a lot of sense to create one for your business too.
Creating a Mini Program for your business
Now that you know how beneficial WeChat Mini Programs can be for your business, let’s talk about how to create one. We won’t go into the technical details here, it’s just to give you an idea of where to go next.
It generally takes about 8-10 weeks to build and develop a Mini Program. Depending on your needs and your immersion in the market, this could also be extended if you want to test new functions of your Mini Program or e-commerce store.
Smaller And More Agile Than Regular Apps
One of the great benefits of Mini Programs being so small and easy to build is that you can also create multiple Mini Programs for your business. Let’s say you have a multi-function native application. Instead of creating a complicated Mini Program that tries to address all these functions (say sharing health data with your followers and buying running shoes), you can more easily create two separate Mini Programs that are optimised for the two different functions.
Our experience has shown us that a few simple tips really help businesses create WeChat Mini Programs that make the most of their Chinese-based market:
- Keep the Mini Program simple, yet instantly understandable. With a more limited functionality, the best Mini Programs are those without too much navigation or steps involved.
- Don’t copy and paste your website or native application. Like we said before, create different Mini Programs if you need to – don’t try to fit it all into one.
Incentivise people to share your Mini Program. Create deals for those that share with their friends and get your Mini Program out there on group chats.
- Drive your customers to your website or full application through the Mini Program. Give them a taste of all the services you can provide and then make your call to action clear.
- Be sure to have seasoned professional translation. You’ll need your Mini Program to be in Mandarin to reach the most users. You’ll also need seasoned China facing marketers for this. Good communication and accuracy in marketing materials makes for good sales figures.
Successful WeChat Mini Programs In Use In China Today
Starbucks is a great example of a Mini Program that works for its users. Its Mini Program allows you to ‘gift’ drinks or specially designed cards to your friends and loved ones. People wanting to give something nice can now do so, very easily, with the Starbucks brand front and centre. Mobike and Ofo, two of China’s biggest bike-sharing companies, also have Mini Programs that are simple and easy-to-use versions of their full apps: Users just open the Mini Program, find a bike, and unlock a bike.
For e-commerce stores, another great advantage for your consumers is how easy it is for them to just buy something. There’s no need to register, to input financial details — everything’s already in WeChat, so they just need to hit ‘buy’.
One of China’s largest e-commerce brands, JD.com, was one of the first brands to fully utilise the Mini Program purchasing experience for their customers. Their Mini Program allows users to search and buy easily, enhancing their buying experience by a user-friendly Mini Program integrated into the always used WeChat. JD.com also took it a step further, offering their retailers an easy to build their own Mini Programs within the JD.com system.
Criteria For Mini Programs
Mini Programs are essential for businesses entering or expanding in the Chinese market. Not only is it easy for you to create and market your Mini Program, it also opens up your business to a whole lot more potential customers.
We love Mini Programs because of the flexibility it gives you to create a program that best fits your business’s own functions. Whether you’re selling a product, promoting your brand, or marketing a new game, Mini Programs are one of the most cost efficient ways of harnessing the power of marketing on WeChat.
Did we miss anything? Let us know….Or if you want to talk WeChat mini programs drop us a message. We’ve been building these powerful little beasts for years. Long live the mini-program!