What are WeChat Mini-programs?
WeChat is one of China’s biggest social media, messaging and mobile payment apps in China with over one billion active users logging on every month. The WeChat Mini-Program is offered as an application within WeChat, and it gives brands a powerful platform to engage with their target Chinese audience in an engaging and flexible way.

With a WeChat Mini-program, a brand can offer advanced user features such as coupons, tasks and e-commerce functionality – even offering a series of standalone Mini-Programs for each, thanks to the feature’s fast and featherlight design.

For example, Mobike, the bike-sharing company, uses Mini-Programs to allow its users to geolocate bikes to hire, to unlock them and to make payments. Tesla uses them to show its users the locations of electric charging stations, to share reviews of Tesla cars and to arrange a test drive with a local dealership.

How popular are WeChat Mini-Programs?

The figures speak for themselves! There are already over a million WeChat Mini-Programs in existence which span more than 200 topic categories. Every day, they are accessed by over 200 million Chinese users who use them to shop, book, reserve, play games, review, chat and more!

What are the benefits of WeChat Mini-programs?
As well as being owned by one of China’s biggest and most powerful social media platform, this integrated app feature is:

– Extremely fast and smooth for users – offering superb UX
– Light and easy to use, requiring no data-heavy mobile download (users simply swipe to delete, as they would with a message.)
– Designed to integrate naturally with other WeChat features and navigation (and ideal for linking e-commerce with the WeChat payment platform for a seamless transaction.)
– A great tool for boosting e-commerce conversions
– A powerful additional sales channel (KOL and former editor of Harpers Bazaar China, Yu Xiaoge, already enjoys over $1.5 million USD of mini-program e-commerce sales every month.)
– Particularly useful for fashion, beauty, family and lifestyle brands
– Offline friendly; as the tool also be used for offline payments or functions (such as geolocating, accessing a locker pin or paying for a service, for example.)
– Great for marketing, thanks to its captive audience and ability to work across every OS in China that supports WeChat
– Growing fast, with time spent on Mini-Programs growing to around 10 minutes from 1.6 minutes per day in the space of just a year

Targeting Chinese customers via Mini Programs
It’s interesting to note that Mini Programs are currently most popular in tier 3 and 4 cities, and tend to be used by Chinese customers spending under 1,000 RMB (higher spend items tend to be sold via Mobile Apps, which we will cover in a separate blog.) Chinese digital marketing agencies use these types of insights to help Western brands most effectively target their marketing budgets for the highest possible return on investment.

How can I design a WeChat Mini-Program
So, as a Western brand looking to expand into China, how can you make use of the WeChat Mini-Program facility for your brand?

7 Top tips for a successful WeChat Mini-Program build
1. Use a Chinese developer

Tencent opened up the Mini Program API to developers last year, so they can be customised more easily. Although mini-programs are very user-friendly, they must still be coded by a developer – rather than built using a template-builder, for example. This means that local knowledge, technical expertise, Chinese native language skills and cultural awareness are all key to success.

2. Plan the concept

If you have a native WeChat app, don’t simply copy it into a Mini-Program. Take a core functionality and focus the Mini-Program around it. If you offer more than one type of functionality, consider building a Mini-Program for each. For example, one for gifting, one for purchasing, one for access code unlocking, one for sharing tips and so forth. (MacDonalds uses five Mini-Programs in this way to deliver different functionalities from in-store ordering through to delivery and its birthday club.)

3. Perfect the UX

Ensure that the WeChat mini-program is simple, user-friendly and designed with your target audience and their needs in mind. In particular, make the navigation as intuitive as possible, so that the user instantly knows what to do and where to go.

4. Pay attention to detail

Customise all relevant elements such as the menu, fonts, colours and buttons etc in line with your brand and campaign. Link this with your WeChat account for a smooth and integrated user experience.

5. Use native insight

Use knowledge of Chinese culture, socio-economics, trends and internet user habits to provide a solution that genuinely delights your target audience – and drives conversions. Slick technical features will be irrelevant if your content and concept don’t hit the mark.

6. Test

A well-designed Mini-Program should run extremely fast and without glitches, so check the code carefully before launch and ensure your Mini-Program is visible on all popular mobile phone screen sizes in China.

7. Consider the rollout

Unlike Google Play or Apple iStore apps, WeChat Mini-Programs can’t be downloaded from an app store. Chinese users must scan a QR code, receive a link from a friend or a WeChat group, spot a link from a WeChat official account or search for it on WeChat. This is something for Western marketers to bear in mind for accessibility and reach. A Chinese marketing agency can assist with the creation of a WeChat Mini-Program launch or a share campaign as part of a wider Chinese digital marketing strategy.

Find out more
Lookit works with Western business brands of all sizes and across all industries. We work on a partnership basis to get to know our clients and understand their goals and objectives. By doing so, we can leverage our expertise to deliver Chinese digital marketing solutions that generate measurable results – and which meet every client objective. Please contact us for a no-obligation chat about how we can help your business to launch its brand in China, or further extend its reach and success in this sophisticated, growing and lucrative market of savvy consumers.