WeChat Mini Program: an epic guide

1. They have taken China by storm

key usage figures on WeChat Instant App
Source: EU SME chamber / 31Ten

2. 101: what are WeChat Mini Programs? How do they compare to native Apps and H5 mini-sites?

Mini Programs are “mini applications” built within WeChat platform, turning WeChat into an app store, or even a “social OS”.

Inherent proprieties of this technology:

  • mobile
  • instant – no download needed
  • light to offer a smooth user experience
  • integration within WeChat Ecosystem
    • enabling users to have access to a large range of applications/services (e-commerce, games, productivity, reading content, etc…) without leaving WeChat
    • enhancing the user experience with WeChat features and APIs
    • The WeChat brand zone can link to the Mini Program of your choice as a highlight

Further readings

Official Account? Mini Program? H5?

All in one place – essential reports to learn the basics:

WeChat Mini APPs introduction webinar by the EU SME center in China in January 2019

WeChat Mini Programs introduction by Matthew Brennan at the China Marketing Summit 2017 conference

3. Mini Program case studies


Tourism / Travel retail

Explore more case studies on how to leverage WeChat for brands and businesses

4. Mini Program: strong pillar to drive sales with a variety of models and features to integrate

In the strategy of Tecent to catch up with Taobao/Tmall’s shopping experience leveraging WeChat’s strengths, Tencent is positioning Mini Program as a key channel to drive sales.

That’s why they keep on improving it by regularly adding new features.

More and more brands are using Mini Programs to sell their products.

Mini Programs have proved to be an effective e-commerce tool. In 2018, 18% of Mini Programs were dedicated to e-commerce.

E-commerce well-known platforms (VIP.com, JD.com, Pinduoduo, Secoo) are helping to drive towards this trajectory with significant adoption of their own Mini Program (vs. their native APP)

WeChat light App as a powerful channel of online sales | WeChat Instant App for e-commerce industry
Source: Trends: Social Marketing in China | April 2019 [Totem Media]

Example of mobile shopping Mini Programs:

  • JD.com
  • Pinduoduo
  • VIP.com
  • Kuaishou shop
  • RED

Tips, tactics and best practices to sell efficiently through this channel

Case studies

5. Traffic to a Mini Program – Entry points and flows between MP and OA

  • Learn more about the entry points here: + Over 60 traffic entry points to a Mini Program (and counting)
  • By diverting campaign traffic from the Official Account to a Mini Program, you lose the multi-touchpoint opportunity of turning the visitors into followers. Only a fraction of the MP traffic will make it back to the OA, despite the new entry points. 
entry points driving traffic to WeChat Mini App  | WeChat Mini App

6. Developing WeChat Mini App

7. User Experience and design best practices

Design guidelines

8. Measuring the performance of a Mini Program

9. Updates and timeline on Mini Program landscape

WeChat Light App updates
Mini Programs were initially met with inflated expectations and had a slow start, before overtaking the Apple app store. Source: KAWO
DateUpdatesSource / more details
June 2019[Feature in testing] Be able to rate Mini Programs with ‘star ratings’ – a key feature available Native APP stores to incentivize high quality
Mini Programs with a high rating will be entitled to advertising credits to help them reach more users.
Already available for Android version

March 2019 2 new features improving the shopping experience on Mini Programs have been released:
1- “Recommended Product” section 好物圈 (1) = launched at the beginning of March, it’s section of the ‘Search’ which looks like a feed, showcasing the products your WeChat friends have shared, purchased and reviewed (2).
After interfacing with your e-commerce Mini Program –
Users submit the products via a button that can be integrated into your existing Mini Program (3) in order to share them on the “recommended products” section.
2- Integration with 3rd party logistics providers (4) – benefits for buyers:
– Manage shipments directly through a centralized “WeChat logistics assistant” 物流助手
– Receive notifications on the delivery status
screenshot 1
screenshot 2
screenshot 3
screenshot 4

Azoya Consulting

January 2019[From version 7.0.3] New home screen for Mini Programs:
A window resembling a smartphone’s home screen is displayed when swiping down from within the app. The embedded applications also have been made directly searchable from the window, with WeChat adding a Mini Program search bar.
January 2019New interface to request user data attached to the WeChat account: phone number, address, fapiao information etc.screenshot
November 2018 New entry point from a Mini Program to the Official Account it is attached to: banner format inviting to follow the OA after
1 – a MP payment transaction
2 – when scanning a QR code
1 – payment
2 – QR code
May 2018 – The MP user data retrieval engine is now more restrictive, in line with personal data protection regulations
– Mini-games abusing viral mechanisms can now be reported and taken down
– Sharing capabilities have been restricted
– Tencent is now offering APIs to control user-generated content for content rules violations (see + WeChat Rules and Marketing Restrictions)
– The third-party ecosystem keeps consolidating: mini-program template generators, analytics, backend as a service (BaaS), toolkits etc.

March 2018
WeChat search bar added as an entry point
– This feature helps the users have easier access to the relevant functions “deep” linked to corresponding Mini Programs by starting with WeChat’s search function.
– For example, if users search kuaidi (courier, 快递), they will get a list of functions like Track Packages, Call a courier, My past packages, and Address management which link to related WeChat Mini App pages
February 2018 Mini Program ads: they can only link to other Mini Programs
December 2017New Mini Program shortcut bar:
1 – Add the Mini Program in your favorite list
2 – Mini Program favorite list is access when scrolling up in the chat list screen – above the search bar
1 – add to favorites
2 – Shortcut bar
November 2017Mini Programs can now also be included into the paid media zone at the bottom of WeChat articles
November 2017
WeChat Shop Mini Program is released: a Mini Program available to all Chinese WeChat Official Accounts directly from the WeChat Official Account back-end. An alternate to the old native store.
July 2017WeChat enhanced in-app search results with mini-programs data CIW
June 2017Mini Program SEO: developers can now submit up to 10 keywords for approval for each Mini Program on which the WeChat users can discover it by conducting searches. When searching for specific keywords, in the search result page, Tencent is testing some paid Mini Programs (Example when typing “Hotel”, this shows an ad of eLong mini-program).  CIW
May 2017 – Brands can now display different content depending on specific WeChat group ID or group name where their Mini Program is shared.
– Mini Program “nearby” feature lets users find relevant Mini Programs around them. Brands with local stores can use this features to serve in-store customers.
– Tencent launched a Mini Program which enables admins to view data of their Mini Program on their phone.
– Enabled developers to include a Share button on Mini Programs (Tencent forbids any other H5 pages to have a sharing button).
– Mini Programs can access more users data after a one-click authorization, including the past 30 days WeChat Run info (number of steps users take every day).
– Mini Programs can have background music, adjust screen brightness, and have a namecard sharing feature.
– Unlimited QR code tracking API.
– Templates messages to display order status.
April 2017 – Individual developers can register and create their own Mini Programs
– Register and verify a Mini Program with an existing official WeChat account
– Multiple ways to access to Mini Programs
– Mini programs are now open to third party operators
– StoreMini Programm
– Nearby Mini Program

10. Mini Programs everywhere: Alibaba, Baidu, Bytedance and phone makers following suit

All the other Chinese Internet giants have jumped aboard the Mini Program train and have rolled out their own instant Apps.

Learn more about it here: + Mini Programs / Instant Apps: how Baidu, Alibaba, Alipay, Bytedance and Phone Makers fare compared to Tencent’s?

Updated on 2019-10-01

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