WeChat Mini-Program: E-Commerce Solution in China
In 2021, 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 1.3 billion users in China in 2020, WeChat is still the main social media to consider when doing e-commerce.
What is a WeChat mini-program?
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 included on the WeChat APP, 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 program (the most interesting for marketers)
- Video games
- Lucky draws
- H5 brochures
WeChat mini-programs in the philosophy of the company is based on the desire to make Wechat even more practical for its 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 user life is also very clever because it allows WeChat to monopolize the user on its platform rather than downloading other applications. This is all used to generate more and more traffic and create more of a monopoly for the parent company, Tencent.
WeChat was the ideal platform to launch the idea of mini-programs because of its more than one billion active users per month. The application is omnipresent in China. Therefore, it was the most relevant company to carry out this project.
Mini Program VS your own App
The main difference between a classic application and WeChat mini program 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.
The mini e-commerce program has 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.
The WeChat mini-programs are decentralized, meaning that there is no space for searching all the mini-programs. The user can use the WeChat search bar, the user can receive a recommendation from WeChat to discover new programs based on their location but they can not find them by approximative research (by theme or keyword for example).
Why develop a mini-program for your brand?
Mini-programs provide a new way for businesses to contact customers and offer them a new experience. They are easier to access and less constraining. The possibility of being able to invest more cheaply in a program allowing customers to discover a service or products is very attractive.
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. Especially for startups whose budgets are often tight on project initiation.
Notably, when considering design for classic applications, it is necessary to adapt the application 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 application.
Because WeChat mini-programs are 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 application. This is a real advantage for companies that optimize the time customers spend on their programs. This is all the more true as the competition in e-commerce continues to be strong. A fluid site allows 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, or discount vouchers).
With a successful mini-program, customers will also be more inclined to download the full independent application (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 application.
For example, in regards to JD.com, which specializes in electronic product e-commerce, for a customer who needs a hairdryer, he 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 application (this is valid for other areas: travel, food delivery, taxi order, etc.). This allows you to perform a task easily and quickly.
Mini-programs are the new loyalty program
In terms of strategy, the mini-programs are 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, obtaining invoice…).
The mini-programs can serve as a test for both small businesses and even larger enterprises. Indeed the development of these programs being 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 to test different functions.
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. 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.
What are the drawbacks of WeChat mini-programs?
The first disadvantage of these programs is the storage capacity of the program on Wechat (only two megabytes). This drastically reduces the design capabilities of the developers of these programs. This requires companies to compromise on the design and composition of pages which can potentially affect the customer experience.
However, this restriction of Wechat allows the fluidity and speed of these programs and their loading. In addition, it is not possible to send a push notification to its target with a mini-program, and therefore difficult to engage customers. Also, the capacity for sharing your content is limited to the WeChat channels. 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
Only WeChat Pay is available to pay for purchases, which can sometimes be inconvenient for Alipay or even credit card 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.
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 wishes to apply at any time.
What about mini-programs performances?
After a slow start, WeChat programs boomed in the first months of 2018, mostly thanks to the explosion of addictive video game programs. Today, WeChat has more than a million mini-programs (which equals half of the Apple Store), 200 million DAUs, and 63% of WeChat users have used a mini-program at least once.
Additionally, users of mini-programs have gained confidence on the platform and feel safer now to make their purchases on these small programs. In the first half of 2018, 95% of Chinese e-commerce companies have created a mini-program for their business on WeChat (including JD, Pinduoduo, Mogujie, etc.).
Thanks to this boom, investments have started to climb – mainly on e-commerce and service programs. According to newrank.cn throughout 2018, WeChat programs received nearly 4.3 billion yuan in total for their financing. The growth of the business of companies and Key Opinion Leader through its mini-programs was very quickly the source of attraction of new investors.
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 and 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 shyer in their investment initiatives, with the obvious exception of Tencent getting involved with the project.
E-commerce opportunities: comparaison with H5 brochure
Mini Programs Shops are a new way to sell 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 mini-programs are not numerous but relatively significant.
- First, 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.
- 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 the official accounts of brands, by the functionality “find the nearest” using geolocation of users phones, or by WeChat post. This allows the mini-program to gain visibility over H5 pages.
- Third, mini-programs are integrated into the WeChat ecosystem.
- Fourth, the development time, and the cost of developing a mini-program are cheaper compared to H5.
- Fifth, payment methods, for WeChat mini-programs only WeChat pay is available while for H5 pages, all payments are accessible (WeChat pay, credit card, …).
- Sixth, it is more reliable and safe to use a WeChat mini program, since they are managed by Tencent, their optimization and therefore security is more reliable than that of the H5 pages.
- 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 H5pages 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!