With COVID-19 resulting in a dramatic change of lifestyle for most countries around the world and increased attention being placed over the future of e-commerce and retail, China is well-placed to continue its current course of creating innovative digital platforms. It is clear to see that China has, for many years, been among the most digitalized countries with constant development of new innovative technologies, among these, WeChat Mini-programs are one of the digital innovations mostly attracting marketers’ attention.
Originally launched by Tencent in January 2011 as a messaging app, WeChat has now grown to 1.2 billion monthly active users, up 6.3% year-on-year. Although it’s significant to mention that 45 billion messages are exchanged on WeChat every day, this app has since become much more than just a messaging app.
Launched in January 2017, Mini-Programs are sub-applications within WeChat that enable users to access third-party service providers related to any category, from food and travel to education and fashion. The latest data assesses that over 300 million daily active users on more than 2 million WeChat Mini-programs are currently present on this digital platform, with a transaction value exceeding RMB 800 billion in 2019 (+160% from the previous year).
Last January during its Open Class 2020, the WeChat team presented a series of updates that seem to confirm the development of an online marketplace for traders and sellers. Along with this decision, WeChat has undoubtedly been aligning with other major e-commerce players such as Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo. Despite being among the last to arrive in the market, WeChat can leverage its significant amount of user data, its business-to-consumer ecosystem, as well as its advertising operation to build an e-commerce platform.
WeChat’s plan to develop more digital retail-friendly features is a natural strategic choice to comply with the current e-commerce business models. For this reason, following the great success experienced by other major players, it should not come as any surprise that WeChat has recently announced its latest upgrade towards supporting live-streaming within its Mini-programs.
With an average number of visits to Mini-programs per user increasing by 45% in 2019 compared to the prior year, an average number of Mini-programs used per user going up by 98%, and an average retention rate also growing by 14%, it is extremely likely that in the post-COVID-19 period these numbers will continue to significantly increase, but what are the advantages of creating a Mini-program?
WeChat Mini-programs are directly linked to WeChat Pay, which is the app’s integrated payment system. The number of WeChat Pay registered individual businesses in China has reached 72 million, of which more than 50 million small and medium-sized merchants are active on WeChat’s payment platform. With increasing features being constantly introduced (for example, face payment, QR code scan purchase, smart operation) both the number of users and transactions is set to grow.
Mini-programs can send push notifications to their users in the form of a normal text. Through this feature, it’s relatively easy for businesses to be in touch and actively engage with their customers whilst keeping them up to date with the latest news and promotions.
A growing number of top WeChat influencers started developing their own e-commerce and mini-programs, with celebrities representing huge growth drivers for brands, they are progressively driving a remarkable amount of sales on such platforms.
Mini-programs won’t necessarily replace apps, but they are a great tool to integrate to a brand’s WeChat Official Account. They are indeed a powerful tool to better convert the great potential of WeChat content to e-commerce, especially in a retail system where influencers play an essential role.
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