Wechat Mini Programs (微信小程序) used to be all the rage.

The hype was huge. Experts and blogs predicted the beginning of a new era with endless possibilities. And developers couldn’t wait to get their hands dirty with this new, exciting tool.

In fact, it was more than just that.

WeChat announced the early stage development of the feature back in September 2016. We published an article discussing the potential of its Mini-Programs during the time. It looked promising, yet particularly scary for Apple and the plethora of apps in China.

With over 800 million users, it’s easy to understand why it poses such a threat to other brands and apps. The goal was to be a one-stop shop platform. Users only needed to access their favorite apps and services. It also has customized messages to followers, ads, e-commerce, reordering features and more.

For many observers, it was the first step in a new direction.

But four months after its launch, it seems like no one has used the Mini-Programs in real life. People haven’t noticed that it’s been that long since its launch too. Come to think of it, now you can’t wrap your head around why there was so much hype anyway.

At this point, it is pretty clear why it has been a failure. The real question is this — how will business profit from them?

Let’s go back and talk about the Wechat Mini Program’s functionalities and why people cared so much about it.

Booking.com - Wechat mini program

So how do Wechat mini programs work exactly?

As the name suggests, mini programs are light-weight, bare-bone versions of normal apps. The mini-programs must weigh less than 1 MB. It should provide a smooth experience. It should only use a fraction of a user’s phone memory, ensuring a cross-browser compatibility. So far so good.

Then why the criticism?

First of all, there is no real store. Yes, you read that right.

At the moment, there is no market, no index nor any sort of a catalog. In fact, mini programs are to be only found after sharing or by scanning a QR code. Either this or you have to already know the exact name of the mini-program to find and download it. For example searching for “hotels” or 酒店” would not find the above mini program from Booking.com.

Second, by design Mini Programs are not supposed to notify the users in any way. They’re supposed to remain hidden and only used when the need arises. This is certainly something marketers are not fond of.

Even though the mini-programs have the potential to be revolutionary, they do not add real benefit to existing apps. At the moment they are lacking the wow-factor.

So far, the mini-programs are quite basic. KFC has one for Loyalty Program. Tencent has a tool for creating surveys. Booking.com pushes promotions of the day. These features are far from being the revolutionary tools promised to us.

Wechat Mini Program - KFC

How can a business benefit from Mini-Programs?

There are some real opportunities out there. In fact, most unknown apps will enjoy their light versions. Developers struggle with making users download and keep apps due to limited space. This issue is addressed thanks to the lighter weight of the Mini-Programs.

Perhaps only large corporations can benefit most from WeChat Mini Programs. They may be able to drive traffic to their mini app because of their high brand awareness. In this case, they may offer specifics, experiences such as a game that can be then discarded by the user at a later stage.

Another example comes from Mobike, a bike sharing service. They recently implemented a new feature that lets you unlock their bikes rather than their stand-alone apps. But it is yet to be unveiled how many people are in fact using this feature.

Wechat mini program - Mobike

So, are Mini-Programs still considered a failure?

According to Aaron Chang, CEO, and founder of Jing Digital, the lack of notification is a key challenge. But industries such as retail and hospitality can benefit from mini programs. With it, they can offer engaging, one-time mobile experiences to their clients. There is room for improvement. Connecting them to the main account would be a first step in the right direction.

Tencent’s continuous rollout of innovative technology shows that WeChat is in its golden age. But Mini Programs will face an uphill struggle before becoming a major player in the App Store ecosystem. Let alone before becoming a true one-stop platform.

There are many other ways brands can leverage Wechat, from H5 campaigns to Social CRM, Social Commerce, API. One question surely comes to mind: why did they launch mini programs in such manner, which is already making them lose traction?”

Contact IT Consultis to know more about Wechat Mini-Programs and talk with one of our experts.

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Expert Wechat Mini program QRCode


The article was written by IT Consultis, a leading creative digital agency in the Asian landscape based in Shanghai with offices in Vietnam, and sooner expanding in Europe and USA.