Where Are WeChat Mini-Programs Headed in 2019?

It has been more than two years since Tencent Holdings introduced its “mini-program” feature, essentially a lightweight app that operates within the WeChat ecosystem. Despite a rocky start, WeChat mini-programs completely took off in 2018, with thousands of brands and retailers jumping on the bandwagon to explore business opportunities.

A new survey co-authored by Chinese research agency Kueclub (酷鹅研究院) and Tencent Research & Development offers insights into how Chinese consumers use WeChat mini-programs and what their behavior can mean to brands and retailers.

Published at the beginning of this year, they surveyed 8,000 WeChat mini-program users to understand their daily habits and preferences. Nearly 70 percent of users are optimistic about the future development of mini-programs, and over 40 percent think mini-programs can replace stand-alone apps someday.

Here are five key takeaways from the survey:

Non Mini-program users vs. Mini-program users

Non Mini-program users vs. Mini-program users

1. As of the end of 2018, WeChat mini-programs had more than 600 million users, of which 34 percent are frequent users. Though people are used to popping in and out of mini-programs, the report suggested WeChat should focus on ways to encourage users to stay within a specific mini-program as long as possible. 

Mini-program is the No.4 top used function within WeChat.

Mini-program is the No.4 top used function within WeChat.

2. Difficulty in searching within WeChat mini-programs (which is especially inconvenient for older users) and a lack of functionality were two main reasons for users to abandon a mini-program.

“Don’t want to download a stand-alone app” is the top reason for users opt to use mini-program.

3. 30 percent of respondents indicated they shopped via WeChat mini-programs in 2018. The convenience of getting all things done within the app as well as group coupons and discounts were two major factors that influenced shopping decisions.

4. In the future, WeChat mini-programs that focus on functionality and entertainment will become more popular, the survey noted.

5. A better way to direct mini-program traffic to a stand-alone app download is through identifying a user’s genuine interest rather than offering financial benefits, the survey concluded. In 2018, only 30 percent of mini-program users are willing to download an app after trying out the mini-program. Many companies offer a bonus or additional functions to convince users to download their app, but the retention rate is low.