MINI-PROGRAMS NOW AND THEN
Chinese social media – WeChat mini program -How to leverage your brand – series 1
Surpassing one billion monthly active users in March 2018, there is no doubt that WeChat is crucial for brands who want to interact with consumers. This article focuses on WeChat mini-programs, which are basically integrated sub-apps within WeChat that users can download and install without leaving the app and even use offline.
Before the launch, expectations for mini-programs were very high regarding strongly leveraging user-experience on WeChat. However, when launched in January 2017 it didn’t quite hit the expectations. Instead, it took some more month until the buzz kicked in.
WHAT DO MINI-PROGRAMS OFFER TO USERS?
Currently, WeChat features more than 580.000 sub-apps, and over 170 million consumers using them daily. Furthermore, the time users spent on WeChat reached 9.8 minutes, representing an increase of 8.2 minutes (hence over 600%!!) within a year. Next, to the notable progression of usage, about 87% of users spent 200 RMB monthly, showing the potential to drive sales and convert consumers by mini-programs. The types of mini-programs cover all areas of life, from food services, over traveling, gaming, to governmental services and e-commerce.
A currently hot topic in China is bike sharing. Of course, WeChat also provides mini-programs for that! Here an example of ‘Mobike’, where users can locate free bikes, and contact its user.
Other examples for non-e-commerce mini-programs are free-wifi, group photo albums, and translation tools.
USAGE OF MINI-PROGRAMS FOR BRANDS
With group buying, WeChat mini-programs provide a whole new of selling goods. Also, promotion strategies open up to new dimensions because of WeCHat’s immense user base and its social community-nature that is strongly supporting activities like live streaming.
Brands use mini-programs as another way to engage with consumers by offering useful, funny or emotional content. Some examples of these programs are loyalty-programs to complete the offline shopping journey, gift cards to deliver social-value and increase awareness simultaneously, feature their e-commerce store, a customized product generator, and more. When correctly applied, mini-programs can help brands to raise brand awareness, engagement, and to gain new customers. The offered services always need to be easy to understand and navigate, plus deliver additional value to achieve these goals.
There are screenshots of Michael Kors’ loyalty mini-program on WeChat enables users can view shopping details when doing offline-shopping and benefit from after-sale services.
Here an example of Tesla’s mini-program with which users can locate charging stations, book a test-drive and share all of their experiences about owning and driving a Tesla.
A brand always needs to consider that the mini-program still must reflect their values and is closely related to its business. Moreover, companies have to bear in mind that 66% of mini-program users are aged below 35. Hence the content and offerings provided via sub-apps need to appeal to a young audience. Plus, according to Kukeduo, a simple design and navigation are most important for mini-program users when they intend to do online shopping.
Since the core of WeChat is still about providing a way to stay connected and communicate with friends, a successful strategy is to create a mini-program that sends gift cards to friends. Not only can you gain exposure, but you also touch upon the users’ wish to show personal appreciation to their friends and family. This is what both, Starbucks and Dior successfully did.
Starbuck’s mini-program to send gift cards.
WeChat already mentioned that it wants to invest more in the development of mini-programs to boost and leverage usage. Some changes already have been conducted, for example, the mini-programs now appear on top of the users’ personal messages and at the same time in a folder, storing all mini-programs. This leads to higher visibility increasing the chance to reuse sub-apps. Moreover, when users are using the search bar, mini-programs appear above official and personal accounts.
However, there are also some limitations when it comes to the use of mini-programs. For example, they cannot be shared on WeChat Moments, which is the users’ newsfeed/timeline. Hence, users only discover mini-programs if someone recommended them in private, an account of their contact list posted about it, or if they are already following the brand the program belongs to. Furthermore, they cannot send out push notifications to customers, making it necessary for brands also to run an official subscription and/or service account. Actually, 76% of mini-programs are linked to official accounts, showing that it is a common strategy to run both.
A lot of KOLs (Key opinion leaders, which are the equivalent to influencers) have their own store on WeChat, featuring their favorite products and ones they created themselves. This represents an excellent chance for brands which do not have a large budget to spend and still lack of brand awareness. Why? Because they can collaborate with KOLs and get their products seen without the need to create an own mini-program.
An example of a KOL’s WeChat store.
We think that the hype about WeChat’s mini-programs is undoubtedly justified and that brands need to think about possible ways to boost engagement via valuable sub-apps and to keep your eyes open to upcoming changes and trends concerning mini-programs.
- ALWAYS design your mini-program simple and easy to navigate
- Find a way how to leverage your customers’ everyday life with your mini-program to ensure its success
- NEVER forget about your brand’s values and core business when creating a mini-program
- Bear in mind to adapt your content to your audience, which is most often a younger one
- WeChat is all about being social (and a rather closed-ecosystem!), in order to gain exposure you need to provide engaging content users want to share