Relatively soon after their release, Tencent’s Mini Programs have become a cornerstone for brands who want to move away from ultra-dominant e-tailer platforms Alibaba, JD & al. According to WeChat’s research report about the significant use and economic influence of QR codes in China, 41% of brands surveyed believe that eCommerce Mini Program on WeChat has helped them reduce online store opening and operating costs.
As a result, online shopping is one of the most popular Mini Programs categories, and they are the primary way of selling on WeChat.
What use cases do they serve best? How to integrate them with the rest of a business’s ecosystem, such as their own brand.com website? This article is intended to be a super-comprehensive guide to using WeChat Mini Programs for eCommerce.
Before diving into the specifics of the e-commerce aspects, make sure you have read our complete introduction guide to WeChat Mini Programs.
1. How to use a WeChat Mini Program for eCommerce?
From a user standpoint, reasons for the success of WeChat Mini programs are their easy navigation, simplicity in templates, intuitive way of using, advanced features for eCommerce, and deep integration with WeChat’s core features such as chats and WeChat pay. Scan a QR code to make an order in a store, in a restaurant etc., chances are that you are opening a WeChat Mini Program.
Use cases for brands
From a brand standpoint, eCommerce Mini Program can serve multiple use cases.
- Permanent stores hosting their base SKUs, as a replacement or a complement of their own website.
- “Pop-up” stores offering limited edition, personalized, or time-bound SKUs
- Repeat purchase for your existing clients: “subscriptions”
- Repeat online orders
- Repeat purchase from another channel (e.g. market place like JD, Tmall, PinDuoDuo)
- O2O QRcode on packaging
- Loyalty programs
- Club (e.g. go to my orders and be able to re-order the previous order)
- Sales Campaign based on rareness & virality: Flash sales / Discounts
- Sales representatives, KOL…
- Acquiring New Customers / Prospects
See case studies here: WeChat marketing campaigns and case studies – best practices.
Regardless of the use case, Mini Programs do not generate their own traffic, as you would enjoy from the organic searches from an eCommerce platform. They are more suited for brands with a strong user base with high-level engagement. WeChat allows them to build a conversion layer, enabling them to be independent of third party eCommerce platforms, design fully custom interfaces and generate much richer data from their customers.
Deep integration with the WeChat ecosystem
Through the WeChat JSSDK when developing a Mini Program, advanced e-commerce features can be added to enable users to access, share with their contacts in chats, automatically fill their information interact, purchase, order products through this channel without ever leaving WeChat.
Examples of eCommerce features that are detailed below in this guide:
- Offline usage
- Gift cards
- Sharing options through WeChat groups and chat among users
Must-read guide on WeChat Mini Program eCommerce use cases:
Key advantages of a WeChat Mini Program
in the perspective of the other eCommerce technologies (Native APP and web)
- Mini Programs do not require a download or any installation (provided the WeChat APP is up to date).
- Mini Programs are light so they are very fast in terms of loading speed and smooth in terms of UX and navigation.
- Mini Programs are embedded into WeChat ecosystem to enhance the experience by leveraging WeChat native functionalities
- Users can jump in and jump out of the Mini Program easily
- Users can access anytime, anywhere, which means some features could be used offline as well.
Advantages of a Mini Program compared to a Native APP
- Do not require a download or any installation (provided installing the WeChat version that supports Mini Program)
- Cheaper to develop and maintain – unique codebase cross Operating Systems: no need to maintain an Android and an iOS version
- Faster development lead time
- No updates needed: the latest MP version is automatically loaded
Advantages of a Mini Program compared to a web-based application rendered within WeChat in-app browser (H5)
- Provides a smoother experience for the user
- Easier to bookmark and find with ‘Recently used’ section and ‘Pin Mini Program’ functions
- Searchable within WeChat search function – One of the several entry points to a Mini Program
- Sharable through chats and groups – One important entry point to Mini Program
- Rendering harmonized across devices, OS and WeChat version (no dependency with a web browser like Safari)
- Some offline-based features (less dependency on the network speed)
Even though this technology shows important strengths, there are some limitations to take into account when defining the best WeChat eCommerce solution to build.
Technical limitations to consider before building a WeChat Mini Program for eCommerce
|Technical limitations of a WeChat Mini Program compared to a Native APP||Technical limitations of a WeChat Mini Program compared to a web-based application rendered within WeChat in-app browser (H5)|
|No notification/pushes||Only runs within WeChat – limited to mobile display (Web-based app can be accessible from every point on the web and every display)|
|Mini Program User ≠ OA Follower||Address to access the Mini Program via QR code (less convenient than a web link)|
|Limited discoverability – still no real “App store” to find them||Limited access (not easy to find) (easy to access on every browser|
|Support only WeChat Pay (Alipay and Union pay can be implemented in a Native APP)||Support only WeChat Pay (Alipay and Union pay can be implemented in an H5)|
|No Games => Mini Games（小游戏）, which have their own set of rules and APIs||Address to access the Mini Program via QR code (less convenient than a web link)|
|Dependent on Tencent’s changing rules||Size limitation 10MB (no size limitation for H5)|
|Do not work well with audiences outside of WeChat||Easy to retain users / Low retention rate|
|No VR/AR (not really)||No VR/AR (not really)|
|No Connections to APIs Outside of China, all data sources need to be ICP enabled||Mini-Game on WeChat / H5 game not convenient for users|
|User login does not provide identifiers (email, phone number)||Need Tencent approval on every update|
General drawbacks of a WeChat Mini Program
- do not work well with the audience outside of WeChat
- very dependable on Tencent’s changing rules
The payment system is limited only by WeChat pay, H5 on other support Alipay and Union pay. H5s are embedded within OA and they don’t have restrictions of push notifications, Mini programs cannot have push notifications but that problem could be solved by integrating with WeChat Official Account that can notify users and implement Mini program in the same posts.
2. Standard e-commerce modules can be integrated with a WeChat Mini Program
- Product page
- eCommerce-oriented 3rd party integration:
- (Social) Customer Relationship Management ((s)CRM)
- Order Management System (OMS)
- Warehouse Management System (WMS)
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Product page – product catalogue – Product Information Mangement (PIM)
E-commerce standard sections: listing, product and cart pages
Integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Order Management System (OMS) through APIs
WeChat Pay: cross border or mainland
In a Mini Program, only WeChat Pay can be set up.
Documentation for WeChat eCommerce Mini Program development: Cross-border payment
- The cross-border payment war of WeChat Pay and Alipay | February [WalktheChat]
- WeChat for Dummies: Cross-border online payment | February 2019 [gzicee]
- WeChat Pay cross-border payment available in over 49 countries, regions | March 2019 [people.cn]
3. Best practices to leverage WeChat API – JS SDK to enhance the e-commerce experience
By interfacing with the WeChat JS SDK, the Mini Program experience can be enhanced leveraging native functionality and facilitating user flows such as:
- Specific features: group buying
- Notifications – service – templated message
- Access camera
- Wechat Login = login and get user information in one click
- QR codes = use the QR code scanner without leaving the web page
- Multimedia = Microphone, Speech recognition, Camera
- Wechat Payment: Let users pay using Wechat payment without leaving the website
- Other: Intelligent geolocation, get current network used, customize the sharing snippet aspect
More details about the WeChat API: another chapter to learn about the WeChat JS SDK that can be used when building a native APP or a web-based application powered within WeChat in-app browser (H5).
Some of these features are not e-commerce specific and can be used for other types of Mini Programs.
- Allows the user to instantly signup/login with a click to a web app using his Wechat account
- Similar workflow as Google login or Facebook login – the user’s explicit consent is required
Retrieved User Information
- OpenID: Unique user ID that is specific to the brand’s official account (OpenID is different from the actual Wechat ID)
- Nickname: User’s Nickname
- Profile Picture
- Gender: 1 (Male) – 2 (Female) – 0 (not defined)
- Wechat language
- Province: From user Wechat signup (not updated according to the actual location)
- City: Information filled in by user when signing up (not updated according to the location)
- Country: Information filled in by user when signing up (not updated according to the location)
- Is the user following your Wechat account? Yes – No
Wechat Silent Login
- Allows a web page to obtain the user’s OpenID without authorization prompt
Retrieved User Information
- OpenID: unique user ID that is specific to the brand’s official account (NOT the actual Wechat ID)
- Uniquely identifying a web page visitor for web analytics purposes
- For a discount campaign where each user can only apply for one coupon, instead of checking the identifying the user once with a phone number validation, we can use Wechat silent login to make sure a visitor can only have one coupon generated
QR Code Scanner in a Mini Program
- Use the QR code scanner without leaving the webpage in 1 click instead of (back arrow => top menu “+” => QR code scanner)
Multimedia: Microphone and Speech to Text
- Microphone: Allows the user to record voice and sends it over to get it processed
- Speech to text: translate the user’s recorded message to text (Chinese recognition only)
- Allows the user to upload picture files and/or take a picture
- click button – Call To Action to inform the user on the d
- File system
- Choose camera + Video
The user cannot access directly the camera capture interface in one click
- Pictures are stored on WeChat’s server.
- Full picture resolution is not activated by default. Pictures will be compressed.
- Sights not supported yet
- Allow the user to purchase using Wechat Wallet and Wechat Cart system
4. Other functionalities to integrate to a WeChat eCommerce Mini Program
- Intelligent Geolocation
- Get the user location coordinates (Latitude and Longitude)
- Fallback on Mobile Network Triangulation if the GPS is not enabled
- Precision accuracy (in meters)
- Current network used
- Wifi / 4G / 3G / 2G
- Contextual information that can be useful to adapt the HTML5 Website experience to the user connection (simpler, lighter experience if on 2G for example)
- Customize the sharing page overview on moments
- Can customize and personalize the Wechat text and picture sharing for each user to increase sharing virality
5. Specific features to consider in a WeChat eCommerce Mini Program development
Group Buying (Pinduoduo like)
The more people buy, the higher the rebate. Attract customers to create group prices with a special offer, motivate customers to share, use the cashback to increase the willingness of sharing, and encourage the participating customers to do the same.
Group Buying with coupons
Same principle as group buying. The difference is that the user would receive coupons after the payment happened.
Referral / Sponsorship
Make your customers become your organic KOL through word of mouth and give them commission/referral
Sharing split coupons to friends / Red envelope form for stimulated interactive fun. Invite friends to share the coupons together, generating the traffic and conversion rate.
A new way to customize gifts: distribution of electronic cards on social networks. Customize your own brand gift cards and their value.
Designing and customizing banners, templates for KOL campaigns/marketing activities.
- Recommend stores nearby based on location
- Store list
- Different stores show different pages
- Support the unified brand of the store
- Get geolocation from your user through WeChat API.
Buy as a gift
Sending gifts to friends that will generate large traffic of customers. Sending directly products to their address.
Split Cart / Split Payment
With single and multi-person payment, Friends are helping customers to purchase their desired product with the option to pay the full amount or part of the amount.
Define and customize what kind of coupons will you make for your product. There are four types of coupons: random coupon, discount coupon, full reduction coupon, no threshold coupon.
Random coupon is a coupon in which brands can define a range of a discount amount of coupon, while the amount on coupon is randomly chosen by the software.
Discount coupon allows you to apply a discount amount on specific product/item as a coupon on which customer can use it for purchase.
Full reduction coupon is a coupon that allows customers to get high discount on a product that goes with the primary item that he wants to buy. For example, if you buy a product you will get a discount on another one if you buy them together.
No threshold coupon is a coupon that can be used regardless of the amount of the purchase. If you receive a coupon of 50 yuan you must minimum spend 50.01 yuan to use.
A flash sale is a discount or promotion offered by an e-commerce store for a short period of time. The quantity is limited, which often means the discounts are higher or more significant than run-of-the-mill promotions. The time limit and limited availability entice consumers to buy on the spot – aka impulse buying.
Promo codes allow the customer to input a promotion code during the checkout process to receive a discount (value or %) under several conditions defined in the back-end (e.g. Unique usage, Only available for certain duration, people, etc..).
Reducing the price of the product and making an auction of it.
Sharing red envelope after payment, customers can use envelope to purchase another product.
Deposit (pre-buying deposit)
Shop activity marketing tool to improve order conversion rate. A feature where customers pay a deposit in advance, later they pay the rest amount of the price. Resulting in buying a product at a lower price.
Discount package (matching products package)
Select two matching products and set a package price. When you browse the product details page, customers see other items in the package and the customer can purchase the entire package at the discount price.
Sign in Reward
An interactive marketing strategy that allows customers to move forward with leaps and bounds. It activates your customers by giving them rewards when they sign in.
A membership system that can increase store repurchase rates, cultivate loyal customers, increase customer unit price and provide membership level + membership card. This feature can be used both online and offline.
For supporting and servicing customers with the integration of live chat history.
Ratings and Comments
Customers can share their feedback on a WeChat eCommerce Mini Program. Customer feedback improves the purchasing decision-making process to drive sales and decrease returns
Order management system (OMS)
Order status tracking and integration with 3rd party public vendor (e.g. SF express).
Customers are making their wish list and bookmark products that they want to buy.
Bargaining 0 yuan purchase
Take advantage of lottery opportunities, guide users to invite friends, with this method use it to win customers.
Selling goods in a gamified way to increase customer engagement. Make a funny and interesting way of buying products. With more game options, solve a puzzle, or play a memory game to get the coupon.
- Scratch card
- Crazy guess
- Zodiac Sign game
- Lucky Draw
- Shake it
Order Cash Back
Orders are cash rebate, stimulating customers to place orders as soon as possible. The first orders are cashed back improving the shopping experience, and the customers who are still hesitating with the rebate are placed to place orders.
Sekill (11/11 like, 6.18, etc..) Promotion
Time-conditioned promotion only allows a specific range of time when customers can get a discount or “sekill”.
Price markdown /delivery
A price markdown is a deliberate reduction in the selling price of retail merchandise. When is a markdown time, customers can choose for themselves products to piece together the order and enjoy markdown rights. There are a variety of marketing scenarios, with 6 kinds of discount combination.”
Product bundling is a strategy you can use to encourage customers to buy more goods – offering to sell multiple items together for one price. A product bundle is good for your customers because they pay less for each item than what it would cost if they bought each item individually.
Member stored value
Release stored value rewards to attract customers and repurchase their favourite products.
Build an exclusive points system to bring more loyal and active customers
Compliance: make sure your features are not in breach of the marketing restrictions.
The Tencent team is very careful about protecting their users, especially against marketing incentives. Make sure that the features above comply with WeChat Rules and Marketing Restrictions.
6. Updates and timeline on Mini Program eCommerce features
|Date||Updates||Source / more details|
|March 2020||2 new features to improve the shopping experience on Mini Programs have been released: |
1 – Centralized order management lising
Shopping list: it enables customers to look through all the goods they purchased from different stores.
2 – Customers dispute service
Help customers to easily report a dispute via a dedicated and simplify procedure within WeChat
Official assurance for end consumers to shop on Mini Program
|March 2019||2 new features to improve 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