Developing WeChat Mini App Programmes to Rival Apple’s App Store

Tencent, the $240 billion Chinese internet giant introduced its take on mobile apps within WeChat, their flagship chat app with 846 million monthly users. The apps run solely within the WeChat application and tap into their huge, engaged audience base, indeed average user spends 90 minutes per day on this platform.
Tencent launched a beta program for apps last year. They are essentially a more-basic, stripped-down versions of iOS and Android apps that can be downloaded instantly, and run and stored within WeChat.


Further Integration for Chinese Users

For WeChat this a way to further strengthen their fortress, their application is the most integrated in the world with services ranging from messaging, to photo sharing, gaming, dating, taxi ordering, financial management, geo-localization and e-commerce shopping. WeChat previously had no in-built app service so has nothing to lose by launching it’s own version. The message is that WeChat can fulfill all your needs, your time spent browsing online is even within WeChat (external links are even opened via the WeChat browser), there is no need to ever leave the application.


The effectiveness of ‘Mini App Programmes’

The apps are termed ‘mini programmes’ and utilize WeChat’s large and active audience. The key point is they already trust the system and are familiar with the ‘WeChat Universe’, it would not be an overstatement to say that this social network is really part of the social fabric of modern China.
Apple have not managed to generate the same kind of traction with the app store, this is partly because WeChat as a Chinese network developed to cater for the market more effectively.



Reaching an audience through Mini Apps

Developers can use official accounts and even bots to reach and interact with users away from mobile apps, but now the experience is all the richer. There’s no app store to house the program so instead they are found by searching within WeChat or scanning a QR code, such as those printed on ads on the subway in cities or billboard ads.
Clever placement of QR codes can link to mini app downloads whilst driving traffic from alternative sources such as web pages and e-forums can also pay dividends.


Linking Mini Apps with Official accounts

Brands and companies can open official accounts on WeChat and even build a ‘micro site’ / mobile optimized version as your ‘shop front’. Driving traffic to an official account can then in turn feature an embedded link to your mini app you are promoting. The platform is even fondly known as the ‘WeChat Times’ because users frequently search on WeChat, like it is a search engine. This is particularly so for e-commerce with the launch of WeChat’s e-stores.



A better solution for China?

A study from Nielsen found that consumers spent 85 percent of mobile browsing inside apps, but less than a dozen get the bulk of their attention. Encouraging users to download an app is difficult initially yet retention is another challenge. Localytics found that, typically, one in four people abandon news apps after just one session.
Chatbots in China are increasingly being touted as the answer as they are able to simplify the stream of information and digestibility of content. Single lines of text increases clarity and organization and can be run in conjunction with WeChat mini apps.
WeChat could take this concept to the next level with Mini Programs. They are as simple to download as bots, yet they can offer more app-like features to potentially keep users engaged.

see also how to market your App in China



WeChat is a clever system for app-sharing

Unlike Facebook and other rivals WeChat has complete control over the apps hosted within the platform. This in China acts as a filter in terms of quality and price. The other key point is that with its clout developers will jump on board to push and innovate mini app content in new & interesting ways for the Chinese market.

It will be interesting to follow Mini Programme developments as Apple struggle to maintain a market share against domestic giants such as Tencent.


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