The history of WeChat Mini Program and its plausible future
Targeted to revolutionize the use of mobile application among every user, the vision from Tencent when building the WeChat Mini Program framework brought big promises but a miserable outlook at its launch. Fast forward to today, it has been one of the crucial drivers of eCommerce in China while constantly being adopted by Australian and international leaders in multiple industries, including Gucci, Mercedes-Benz and McDonalds (or Maccas).
What has changed after the March in 2017? And why some companies succeed with WeChat Mini Program while many more failed?
The launch with overcast
Despite making a huge announcement and publishing the platform on the 9 January 2017, news media outlets and analyst agencies did not share the same trust on WeChat Mini Program as Tencent did.
Described as “exposed”, the outlets highlighted major disadvantages of WeChat Mini Program, notably the derailment from the rather-traditional application store. Many claimed, including major news outlets, Mini Program would “not be able” to replace applications.
The uncertainty over Mini Program continued as many first adopters recalled their Mini Programs. Customers who deleted their applications in favor of the revolution were also found reinstalling their applications. The prospect of WeChat Mini Program sounded doom and gloom over two months.
Riding against the tide
On 30 March 2017, when the WeChat Shenzhen Public Course (much like the WWDC of Apple) ended, some media outlets have changed their view on WeChat Mini Program, saying that it’s “not as bad as we thought”. These reports have led a new trend in adopting Mini Program, with a successful example of “MoBai bike-share”. The bike-sharing business doubled its usage every week with its WeChat Mini Program.
Tencent and WeChat soon opened a third-party platform to support WeChat Mini Program. The more accessible Mini Program platform allowed businesses to officially hire third-party developers (like WeBOOST) or management companies to develop and maintain their Mini Program.
Since then, two types of developers have entered the Mini Program development landscape, categorized on their view towards development. The “first-adopters” saw Mini Program as a way to gain traffic while the “entourages” built their Mini Programs with a prospect to strengthen a business.
While the “first adopters” took a mere one-and-a-half month to develop and publish a Mini Program, “entourages” employed a much patient approach with almost half-year of effort.
Combined with the continuous addition of new features to Mini Program by Tencent, WeChat has proudly claimed the “virality” of Mini Program during its Chengdu WeChat Public Class in November 2017.
The first statistical announcement on WeChat Mini Program was made in January 2018 with stunning figures. Developed by over 2,300 third-party developers, there were 580,000 Mini Programs published while 170 million users interact with Mini Program daily.
In July the same year, WeChat made its second major statistical announcement on the subject. With third-party developers grown over the 5,000 marks, 1 million Mini Program were published while every user, on average, uses Mini Programs 4 time per day.
Mini programs by “first adopters” in that instance often failed to record the same “virality” than “entourages” over the longer time frame. With the better business model, Mini Programs by “entourages” yield a much better result with more notable clients.
The expansion overseas
As WeChat being adopted by Chinese-speaking population across the world, the associated Mini Program followed the trend to reach billions of WeChat users in China, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and more.
Additional features in reaching a Mini Program also increased to over 40 portals with “nearby Mini Program”, “user sharing” and “search” being the major players. Such features opened the playing field for WeChat Mini Program and widened the general adoption of it.
While luxury brands like Gucci and Hermes used Mini Program as a channel to reach the market in China, Australian brands and groups were seen to enhance sales locally. Chadstone The Fashion Capital – the largest shopping centre in the southern Hemisphere – developed a Mini Program with WeBOOST to encourage the use of its convenient tourist shuttle bus from Melbourne city to the mall.
Official bodies, including the City of Melbourne, Queensland State Government and AusTrade, have also developed their WeChat Mini Program to enhance the experience of Chinese-speaking tourists and traders in Australia and further benefit tourism and business in the country.
The plausible future
The view towards using WeChat Mini Program in Australia is amid similar uncertainty as previously in China. Yet, as more brands in Australia, such as David Jones and Myers, are including WeChat and WeChat Official Account as one of their marketing channels, other Australian businesses are almost deemed to follow or risking a major loss of market share.
Food Factory by Crystal Jade, Monash Chinese Student Association and Yarra Range Chicken are just a few of the many examples that developed their own Mini Program and being benefitted to an unimaginable extent.
Learn more on how WeChat Mini Program is going to work in Australia and why WeChat added WeChat Pay to Mini Program ASAP in our other blog posts.