WeChat Mini’s Big Impact on Small Businesses

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 13 May 2019

WeChat, the Chinese social media and payment app has launched a new way for consumers to find discounts and shop online – WeChat Mini.

Anything but small, WeChat Mini is the latest craze to surge through the Chinese e-commerce industry. Classified as ‘sub-applications’ inside the WeChat platform, the program enables advanced tools and features for consumers to use for e-commerce, coupons, task management etc.

WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose application, offering messaging, social media and mobile payments. Established in 2011, it was listed as one of the ‘world’s largest standalone apps of 2018’, with over one billion monthly active users. The Mini Programs e-commerce platform has a high user demographic under the age of 24 and even distribution of genders.

China’s B2C platform JD.com has developed its own mini program on the social media app, offering discounts on attire and other special offers. Many other Mini Programs ask consumers to ‘locate’ certain products and ‘unlock’ them, providing access to exclusive discounts. Non-Chinese brands such as Tesla launched its own Mini Program, giving users access to the nearest charging station, scheduling test drives and posting reviews for its cars.

As the Mini Program runs inside the WeChat app, the process is smooth and easy to use. 18 per cent of content inside the platform is run by e-commerce brands, making it the program’s largest category. It’s important to note that 50 per cent of WeChat Mini Programs also uses a Native App.

As with all platforms, there are a few drawbacks for both retailers and users. As there are tens of thousands of merchants vying for attention by its consumers, and the platform’s limited real estate for brands to share content, it can be difficult for the brands to capture focus from its viewers. Moreover, the in-house program does not enable push notifications and doesn’t have the ability to share posts on WeChat Moments (its timeline) and all updates must be sent to its parent company, Tencent.

WeChat Mini isn’t something that’s inherently new, as seen by ‘eWashing’, a dry cleaning company that takes orders via WeChat. The cleaning service has long leveraged the app as an e-commerce platform, long before Mini Programs launched. However, the service that WeChat Mini provides is something that hasn’t quite hit the e-commerce industry as a whole.

This doesn’t mean that the program isn’t gaining traction – it’s the opposite, in fact. There are currently more than one million Mini Programs available, covering 200 categories and over 200 million active monthly programs. In China, WeChat Mini is one of the largest platforms for e-commerce businesses. Influencers thrive on selling products on said platforms, some boasting more than AUD$2.1 million monthly sales through the Mini Program. Companies such as JD.com, Alibaba and Taobao all offer Mini Programs on WeChat. Integrated with WeChat Pay, consumers can order and pay for services faster directly from the app itself, without having to log into third-party apps or switch applications.

WeChat Mini often beats out a brand’s Native App for small purchases, and aids in the brand’s targeting users with a specific spending budget. According to data provided by QuestMobile, the program works best for brands who sell ‘affordable’ products and don’t rely on a specific gender or age demographic.

Brands that wish to enable the WeChat Mini Programs must have relatively well-versed knowledge of coding and an understanding of Javascript. As the technology remains fairly new, there are few opportunities to shape the program the way the brand may like it. The Chinese app has made waves in its country, and with development adjustments and growing popularity, it could be technology that will make its way around the globe.

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