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The growth of WeChat Mini Apps amplifies market penetration for exporters

2018-11-05 7 minute read Global

Wechat Miniapps 微信小程序


  • What are WeChat mini-apps
  • How they can boost online sales for exporters
  • Mini-Apps forge ahead in China’s socially influenced commerce market

In less than two years since their introduction, WeChat’s Mini-Apps (微信小程序) number more than 580,000 apps and 170 million daily users across a vastly different number of industries, functions, and capabilities.

They’re lightweight applications accessed right from WeChat. They’re not installed or downloaded, and there’s no need for manual upgrades.

Instead, WeChat mini-apps are used until they’re needed and then they’re dismissed. In other words, they fulfil their function while specialising in three key areas: simplicity, accessibility, and convenience.

For exporters, WeChat mini-apps open up another lucrative sales channel

Users can search for exactly what they want. Their most recent or frequent apps can be revealed via a swipe-down section towards the top of their screens. Through mini-apps users can access stores, games, products and government services without weighing down their phone space or cluttering up their feed.

It’s another expansion in the development of China’s social media technology that’s increasing engagement for the social platform. For exporters, however, it opens up another lucrative sales channel that can be used to target specific clusters of their consumer demographic.

How it works

On WeChat, a mini app’s installation package can’t exceed 1,024 kilobytes and the apps are generally less than 10 megabytes. Although they’re developed in WeChat’s exclusive programming language, WeUI (that is, WXML instead of HTML and WXSS instead of CSS), they’re known to be relatively fast, easy and cost-effective to create.

Tolmao Group indicates that the cost of developing a mini-app is about 20% of the development cost of a standard mobile app. For exporters and brands just dipping their toes into the China market, this saving can be re-invested in the company’s marketing strategy and product development.

Marketing, in particular, is an integral aspect of the success of mini-apps.

These programs integrate social media marketing with direct sales, allowing brands to understand more of their demographic faster. Brands can operate multiple apps, all connected to their central WeChat profile. In light of that, mini-apps are generally geared towards a few specific actions.

Yonghui Life’s mini-app, for instance, plays on convenience by allowing their customers to bypass queues in their supermarkets by paying directly through their mini-app. While the convenience store Meiyijia dispenses electronic coupons and Family Mart creates gift cards that can be sent among users.

China’s Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) shows that by September 2017, a few months after the introduction of mini programs, the number WeChat’s online and offline payments increased by 23% and 280% year on year, respectively.

New e-commerce

E-commerce is the second most popular category of Mini Apps in a market driven by social commerce. 95% of China’s e-commerce enterprises operate a WeChat mini-app.

WeChat’s retail GMV totalled ¥496.5bn in 2017. This reach ¥1tn in 2019.iResearch

By now, WeChat mini-apps are sales channels consumers expect most visible brands to have a presence in. Even though WeChat mini apps can’t be shared to a user’s ’Moments’, their main feed, the process of sharing is still an active and prominent part of the consumer experience.

WeChat Open Platform’s General Manager, Hu Renjie, identifies mini-apps as one of the integral elements of China’s new social commerce. “We also observe a phenomenon that many users spontaneously set up a WeChat group for sharing good products or discounted products. Users are very accustomed to sharing their shopping experience in groups.”

According to iResearch, WeChat’s gross merchandise value (GMV) for retail in 2017 totalled an estimated ¥496.5bn. They also estimate that this will grow by 42% in 2018 to ¥707.03bn, before reaching nearly ¥1tn by the end of 2019.

The bottom line

In the fast-developing world of e-commerce, WeChat mini apps have become an important tool for brands wanting to access users with targeted marketing and push sales in one a single action.

The mini programs allow brands to consolidate two sides of sales: a strategy for marketing, and a separate process for payment processing. By integrating WeChat mini apps in brand strategies, and linking marketing immediately to payment, exporters are in with a big chance to boost sales.

ACOLINK’s social media services launch brands on social visibility pathways to optimise sales and accelerate growth through these Chinese e-platforms. Contact us to find out how to make WeChat mini app marketing work for you, or sign up for our Let’s Do China events and workshops.