mini program 小程序 is an embedded cloud-based light application that operates within another system and is loaded directly (like web pages) but with performance similar to web-APPs. It is much easier to develop than a more complex app and is used to save phone storage and optimize the user experience. Mini programs, usually accessed via scanning QR codes, can be also used by brands to nurture a virtual community, launch creative campaigns, build an e-commerce platform, test market viability and gather feedback without a large investment.

  • WeChat mini programs

In 2017, WeChat 微信 introduced a mini program platform to create a series of light software (maximum 1 MB) accessible without download.

In order to encourage more people to use mini programs, lots of new features have been added to help brands and vendors promote their brick-and-mortar stores and work as O2O facilitators, such as the Store Mini Programs 门店小程序, which show users basic information about an offline store (store name, address, opening hours, contact phone number and store photos) and Mini Programs nearby 附近的小程序, which allow brands with offline locations to display their mini programs to passers-by.

For new users, there is no mini program page or button. Users can find them by searching with keywords, scanning special mini program codes, clicking links embedded in WeChat articles or through mini program cards.

At the moment, mini programs are used in four major ways:

  1. Daily needs, such as transportation, time management, translation and polls: in particular they are used for paying bills, buying insurance, making donations, booking flights and ordering food;
  2. Useful information, such as exchange rates and entertainment, such as movie tickets and games. In some regions of China, users can also create their own digital identity cards and regulate their relationship with the central and local administration;
  3. E-commerce, by launching giveaways, special offers as well as UGC collection campaigns to help boost sales, increase brand awareness and retain customers with loyalty programs;
  4. WeChat-related services, such as the Official Account Assistant 公众平台助手, the Weixin Checkout 微信买单and the WeChat Index 微信指数;

So far, WeChat Mini Program’s daily active users have reached 300 million and 800 billion RMB of transactions happened via WeChat Mini program in 2019, a 160% year-over-year increase. Moreover, WeChat launched Mini Program notice subscription template to replace template messages and is planning to improve the user experience for accessing “short content”. Finally, WeChat will support the brands’ official Mini Program stores by providing official store verification service, logistic plug-ins to help with shipping status tracking and 3rd-party order security services, will launch WeChat SEO guide and will improve long-tail search result.

  • Alipay mini programs

In September 2018, Alipay 支付宝 launched its mini programs with the purpose to provide a simple link to plenty of applications invested or supported by Alibaba such as bike sharing platform Ofo, rental platform Zude 白租 or power bank rental platform Laidian 来电.

Alipay’s mini programs are 99% identical to WeChat mini programs (including a swipe-down menu on the app’s homepage for mini programs to enhance their visibility), but they offer a couple unique functions, such as retrieving contacts’ details and read Sesame credit score.

The top categories of Alipay’s mini apps are services that see high-frequency transactions like retail, paying for utility bills and travel booking. Users can hail a taxi, book a hotel, buy movie tickets, pay utility bills, make appointments with doctors or purchase wealth management products directly from within the app.

By January 2019, Alibaba released some data about its mini program: after 4 months of operation, it was able to acquire 500 million mini program users and 170 million daily active users.

Digital to Asia – Your digital gateway to China has created mini programs for its clients on both WeChat and Alipay platforms. For more info about DTA mini programs, please visit the website of Digital to Asia and follow Digital to Asia on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Digital to Asia is a digital marketing and e-commerce agency focused on Chinese market and based in Milan, Italy, delivering “end to end” digital solutions of high quality to Italian and European brands willing to tap into the Chinese market.

Digital to Asia – Your digital gateway to China