WeChat Mini Program: an epic guide

What if you could have an experience as smooth as a native iOS or Android APP without downloading and managing it. Tencent makes this alternative come true with WeChat Mini Program.

From there, their vision is greater: building an ecosystem of online service and productions running within WeChat that can be interfaced with the offline world.

1. They have taken China by storm

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

Learn more about WeChat Mini APP’s growth here: + WeChat data, insights and statistics: user profile, behaviours, usages, market trends

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

What are WeChat Mini Programs?

Mini Programs are “mini-applications” built within the WeChat platform. WeChat allows 3rd party companies to develop Mini Programs providing advanced features to users that can run within the APP.

The technology support the objective of WeChat to provide its users with all-in-one experience.

By opening their platform, a rich ecosystem of WeChat developers is born, a commun characteristic with Apple’s APP ecosystem.

They are considered as WeChat’s own “app within an APP” with 2 benefits:

  • instant loading
  • ease of use

They don’t take up memory on your phone.

This technology enable WeChat to bundle features and capabilities into a single mobile native APP, based on the “super APP” model. Users never need to leave the WeChat application.

For all these reasons, WeChat turns into an app store with this technology.

The cross-functionality ecosystem around it is progressively positioning this “super APP” as “(social) Operating System” for everyday life.

How does it works?

Inherent proprieties of this technology:

  • mobile
  • instant – no download needed – eliminate this barrier to entry
  • 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

They allows users to avoid all the friction and inconvenience of native APPs.

Mini programs are a kind of app that doesn’t need to be downloaded or installed to be used. They realise the dream that apps can be accessible everywhere. Users just scan or search to open the app. They ‘use it then go,’ you needn’t worry did you install too many apps. Apps can be absolutely everywhere, you can use them anytime, but you don’t need to install anything.

WeChat’s founder Allan Zhang

Capabilities to embed in a Mini Program

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

Further readings

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: + Traffic entry points to a WeChat Mini Program
  • 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

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. WeChat’s competitors launched their own versions.

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

Updated on 2020-08-03

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