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WeChat Mini Programs in 2022, Part 1 • Sekkei Studio BlogSekkei Studio Blog

All You Need to Know About WeChat Mini Programs in 2022, Part 1

When social networking super-app WeChat launched ‘mini programs’ in 2017, they were met with some scepticism. Some critics decried a lack of uptake among both businesses and users. Others posited that they were an almost-useless innovation, bound to struggle to gain widespread adoption, given the presence of already decent H5-enabled web apps. Fast-forward five years, however, and such critiques feel wrong-headed and anachronistic. The truth is, WeChat mini programs have swept China by storm, and have partially redefined the way in which Chinese netizens, government agencies, brands and even small independent companies interact with one another over the internet.

In part one of this two-part guide, we will be explaining exactly what WeChat mini programs are, how they are used, who uses them, what they can offer businesses, and what insights companies need to know regarding the latest trends and developments. In part two, we will present a practical guide on getting started, and the options available for those who want to get their own WeChat mini program off the ground.

 

What Are WeChat Mini Programs?

The first thing to understand is that WeChat is a super-app, with chat functionality at its core. Its goal in China is to create an app so all-encompassing that no other apps are necessary. It started in 2011 by including messaging, a social feed, a dedicated online payments service (WePay), and some basic ‘daily life’ functions which it lists as ‘services’, e.g. booking transport and hotels, buying tickets to events, ordering taxis, topping mobile credit, and paying utility bills.

 

WeChat Ecosystem

WeChat Ecosystem. Source: Hi-Com Asia

 

Placing all these functions in one app broke new ground, but their scope was limited by the fact that they have to be centrally managed. In 2017, WeChat supplemented these with a more decentralised offering: for the first time, companies and individuals would be able to build and host entire apps within WeChat. These, they called mini programs.

In 2022, thanks to mini programs, we are closer than ever to the ecosystem that WeChat dreams of, with more than 4 million mini programs across e-commerce, games, education, health, news, fitness, brand representation and more. Swathes of restaurants are doing away with paper menus and taking orders in person, exchanging them for QR codes on tables from which diners select their food. Provincial governments increasingly use mini programs as a way to manage the population’s covid measures. Delivery companies and even some hospitals offer their mini programs as a first port of call. In short, they have become virtually ubiquitous.

 

Native App vs WeChat mini program

PinDuoDuo native app vs mini program. Source: Dragonsocial.com

 

How Are WeChat Mini Programs Used?

Generally speaking, the first point of contact for an average user will either be a scannable QR code (physical or digital), or a menu item on a WeChat official account. Mini programs are searchable too, but this is more commonly used when a user is looking for a specific service, or is looking for a mini program they’ve used in the past. They may also be found linked to within WeChat articles, shared via chat, and via WeChat’s ‘discover’ tab.

 

WeChat mini programs search results

Results from searching for ‘音乐‘ (music) and ‘看书’ (read books) mini programs

 

Upon entering a mini program, it’s common to be asked for permission for access to the user’s basic data, such as name and user ID. For further login steps, other information may be requested, as in the case of WeChat games where a Chinese ID is usually required. Previously this was hugely advantageous for companies looking to gain user data, but new laws that came into force over the last year strictly limit the amount of personal data that can be asked for, and how it may be requested.

After entering a mini program, the user experiences are almost as varied in scope and design as standard Android or iOS apps. There are a few formats that tend to dominate, however. They have to be lightweight and sleek, as they have a 10MB size limit. Below you can see the Starbucks and McDonald’s mini programs for comparison. Notice how the UI is full-screen, extending to the bar at the top. Both of them then offer two main buttons, for delivery or in-store purchases, and then a series of membership or promotional options.

 

Starbucks and McDonald’s WeChat Mini Programs

 

Below you can see the Nike and Adidas mini programs side-by-side. Each adopt a similar design, with banners at the top, followed by a series of other features, and a navigation bar at the bottom.

 

Nike and Adidas WeChat Mini Programs

 

Who Uses WeChat Mini Programs?

Virtually everyone with an internet connection in China uses WeChat on a daily basis. Of the roughly 1.3 billion monthly active users, 450 million use mini programs on a daily basis. Their use has risen quickly, with year-on-year use up 30% in Q4 2021. In Q1 2022, WeChat reported a 100% year-on-year increase in mini program transactions related to catering, tourism and retail.

 

 

Unlike many new technologies, user age demographics are evenly distributed. Older generations are just as likely to use mini programs as younger ones. Users of WeChat games, facilitated via mini programs, display gender parity, while e-commerce users are 71% female.

 

WeChat users age distribution

WeChat users age distribution. Source: Statista.com

 

Why Should Businesses Use Mini Programs?

  • Low user friction. The fact that users don’t have to download mini programs, like they do traditional apps, is a boon to usability. They have instant access to all features without needing to use up much data or phone storage.
  • Tied in with a WeChat official account, channels account, and WeChat Pay, mini programs become part of a one-stop-shop that encapsulates the entire customer journey.
  • The largest userbase. WeChat is simply unrivalled in the number of daily active users. For reference, 1.3 billion people in China use WeChat, close to the entire population, while iOS is used by only 23% of mobile users.
  • Drive users to native app. Many companies will also develop a full-fledged app as well as a mini program. Certain features on the mini program will prompt the users to open or download the app for the full experience.
  • Ease of setup and maintenance. This will be covered in detail in part two of this guide. Put simply, from a technical perspective, it’s quite easy to get a mini program off the ground and then provide it continuous updates.

 

How to get started

Look out for part two of this guide, where we’ll do a deep dive on how to get a mini program up and running. Also feel free to get in touch, for a more personalized introduction.

 

Sources

https://www.chinainternetwatch.com/31608/wechat-statistics/
https://www.appinchina.co/services/wechat-miniprograms/
https://themindstudios.com/blog/make-wechat-mini-program/
https://www.goclickchina.com/blog/wechat-mini-programs-all-you-need-know/

 

David Henriques

Digital entrepreneur and co-founder of Sekkei Studio, a digital marketing agency in Shanghai, Paris and Hong Kong. More than 10 years of experience in helping the communication of foreign companies in China.

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