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WeChat has rolled out a ‘Mini Programs’ system in its bid to become an omni-app. Pic: Chonlachai/Shutterstock

The great business genius of WeChat’s mini-programs

TENCENT’S WeChat is China’s lifeline in many ways. It debuted as a mobile chatting application in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since.

Quickly, it became China’s all-in-one program and combined all the features offered by Facebook, Instagram, Skype, and other popular social platforms. People got hooked and for good reason: everyone they knew was on the platform.

Two years later in 2013, WeChat built a payments platform within its app, and soon WeChat became the platform of choice for several e-commerce transactions.

Last year, the app finally outdid itself.

It launched something called mini-programs which transformed the app into a much more interactive and engaging platform. Mini-programs are light mobile applications that are usually less than 10MB in size. They’re embedded within WeChat and do not require users to download anything in order to run them.

Since its launch last year, WeChat has reported that there are more than 580,000 mini-programs on the platform today and more than one million individuals and businesses working on developing mini-programs. It also revealed that there are more than 130 million active users engaging with mini-programs on a daily basis.

The opportunity mini-programs bring for business

WeChat reported last year that it has 980 million active users. With thousands of brands vying for the attention of users on the platform, building mini-programs has become a necessity. Not only are they an engaging and fun way to interact with users but they’re also an easy way to keep them coming back to the brand which is especially important for those selling via the platform.

Domestic and international companies with a presence in China see mini-programs as a way to build their image and boost brand recall in the market.

“Our clients, most of whom are based in the US and the EU don’t know much about WeChat’s mini-programs, but it’s something we definitely recommend to them if they’re in the e-commerce business,” Alex Dodkin, owner of Beijing’s Eggplant Digital told Tech Wire Asia.

Dodkin believes that mini-programs on WeChat are one of the best ways for brands to engage with users more frequently, and incentivise them for it through gifts, credits, and other forms of rewards.

How mini-programs make a dent in the world of business

Pinduoduo, an exciting startup – for instance – uses a mini-program to help you to form a group with your family, friends, and colleagues so you can qualify for group discounts on things like diapers and tissues.

Popular bloggers on WeChat are using mini-programs to embed products from their stores directly into their articles – making it easier to keep their readers engaged without losing out on revenues from sales.

Retail stores are also using mini-programs to their advantage: Family Mart’s mini-program, for example, allows users to send and receive gift cards, while the Meiyijia convenience store uses its mini-program to offer discount coupons.

At the recent WeChat Open Class PRO broadcast in English for the first time, it was revealed that mini-programs can also be used to help businesses create loyalty programs for its users.

However, since mini-programs are so fluid in terms of what they can do, there are several ways in which businesses can use a little imagination to truly leverage these mini-programs to grow their reach in China.