The Birth of a New WeChat - What the Latest Mini Program Figures Reveal
ITC author

Since its introduction seven years ago, WeChat has continuously disrupted the mobile application industry with the latest and newest functions to create an app for everything. Its growth and prospect are now even recognized by the West, as Forbes describes WeChat as one of the world’s most powerful apps, quoting that “it has rapidly grown into a rainforest-like entity that supplies energy to many other apps and services.”

Today, WeChat officials are now shifting their focus to mini-programs. WeChat mini-programs are essentially the apps within an app. They function like a mobile application with minimal storage size (1M to be exact!) that WeChat users can access directly through the platform’s messaging app.

To understand how significant the growth of mini-programs is, we’ve analyzed the latest statistical report on the performance of mini-programs by Aldwx.

Mini program’s current performance in 2018

Aldwx, a mini-program analysis website, recently released a white paper on the performance of WeChat mini-programs during the first half of 2018. According to their report, the number of mini-programs users has reached 280 million, which translates to a 40% growth since 2017. What is even more astonishing is the fact that within a six-month period, the number of mini-programs has nearly doubled from 580,000 to one million currently active on WeChat. Meanwhile, it took Apple 10 years to reach 2.1 million mobile applications in its app store.

During the first half of 2018, WeChat has witnessed rapid improvements in its platform capabilities, resulting in a much more mature ecosystem for the mini programs. Since its launching, WeChat has continuously increased the number of ways a user can access a mini program. Currently, there are 64 different ways to access a mini program (yes, you read it right - there are 64 ways to enter a mini program). As highlighted in Aldzs’ report, the top five mini program entry channels in June 2018 were: WeChat group chat, the drag-down menu, shared information card, the Discover tab, and mini program search results.

As a result of improvements in mini programs that rolled out this year, WeChat has seen an increase in users’ comfortability in making purchases through mini programs. This trend is especially apparent in the game and e-commerce sectors as the WeChat ecosystem becomes more mature and secure. Today, 95% of e-commerce firms in China have created mini programs to provide users the convenience of shopping within WeChat, while streamlining the process of sharing a product on Moments or to a chat. These improvements in mini programs have also contributed to the rise in user retention rate from 13.2% in November 2017 to 25.5% in June 2018.

The stats signals the birth of a new WeChat

The outlook of WeChat mini programs remains promising as the number of mini programs and users continues to grow exponentially. The advantages of mini programs will further provide its users and retailers the incentives to explore and expand the boundaries of WeChat’s ecosystem. To see where this may take us, ITC has highlighted a few takeaways from the report: the increase in the number of users, mini programs, and entry ways to access mini programs.

1. The number of mini program users has reached 280 million - but does it matter?

The spike in mini programs has been a great news for Tencent, the parent company of WeChat, as more and more people are realizing the potential that mini programs hold. 

Our Opinion: An increasing number of mini program users can lead to more opportunities for businesses to discover, but it is important to realize that it is not enough to just retain users if they cannot induce them to share or convert. Building a mini program that is sustainable and can lead to conversion is still the main challenge businesses need to tackle.

2. More mini programs but stagnating average usage time

Since its release in January of 2017, WeChat has witnessed successive increases in the number of mini programs running on its platform. Today, WeChat hosts a large variety of mini programs encompassing multiple industries, including entertainment, game, tourism, e-commerce, and much more. As the number of mini programs continues to grow, many observers would expect the time spent on them to likely increase as well. However, only 56% of WeChat users currently use mini programs for over 10 mins a day when the daily average time spent on WeChat is 66 minutes.

Our Opinion: Brands have jumped on the Mini program bandwagon, but now it’s Tencent’s turn to focus on pushing the Chinese consumers to accept a new digital ecosystem that has the capability for its user to access what they want, whenever and wherever they want, simply through WeChat. At the moment, the number of mini programs continues to increase, but the time spent on them is remaining relatively stagnant. This will be a factor that brands need to consider before developing a mini program that may have very weak user traffic, resulting in low ROI.

3. More Ways to Access Mini Programs Means Higher Retention Rate

Introducing new ways for current and prospective users to access mini programs has been the backbone of the growth witnessed by WeChat this year. There are now 64 channels to access mini programs, and China’s general public is becoming more and more familiar with this app-within-an-app technology.

Our Opinion: The increase in ways to enter a mini program will not only help reach more new users, but it will also increase retention rate as the process of getting back into a mini program becomes more efficient. In response, this growth will continue to stimulate and strengthen the use of mini programs on the WeChat platform.

WeChat continues to lead the race in China

As the mini programs continue to mature and offer more values to brands and their users, China will likely witness a change that may reshape the entire digital ecosystem. To illustrate the change, we have highlighted above three signs drawn from the recent reports regarding the performance of mini programs in the first half of 2018 and offered our opinion on what these statistics mean. We realize that mini programs may completely change the way typical Chinese users interact with their WeChat app in the near future, so stay tuned  as we offer more insights on what recent developments in mini programs may mean to you!