WeChat Mini Programs: The Complete Guide for Business

Dragon Social Limited
  • Date Published
  • Categories Blog
  • Reading Time 17-Minute Read

WeChat Mini-Programs have revolutionized the WeChat Ecosystem, allowing a range of new functions for marketing and more.

Starting off as a simple messenger app, WeChat has now become the 5th most-used app in the world, with over 1 billion MAU worldwide. In view of WeChat’s success, Tencent hopes to go beyond social networking and transform WeChat into an enclosed all-in-one ecosystem for its users. A huge part of this strategy is one of WeChat’s newer functions, WeChat Mini Programs.

In January 2017, Tencent introduced WeChat Mini Programs, further stretching the functions of WeChat since the last big addition of WeChat Pay in 2013.

What Are WeChat Mini-Programs?

WeChat Mini Programs are sub-applications within the WeChat ecosystem that allow users to access any Web App by without leaving WeChat.

There are plenty of ways to access these mini-programs. Whether it be through a direct search, scanning a QR code, or through links on a WeChat official account. Users can also explore WeChat Mini Programs based on their location with LBS technology through the ‘Mini Programs Nearby’ function.

WeChat screenshots - click the Mini-Program Option (Left) and in the next menu click mini-programs nearby

Simply click the Mini-Program Option (Left) and in the next menu click mini-programs nearby (Right)

With a small file size of just 10MB (excluding pictures, videos, and sounds hosted on the server), WeChat Mini Programs do not require any installation and can be loaded much faster than traditional native apps. Through WeChat Mini Programs, Android users can now access web applications without needing to access the Google Play store, which is blocked in China.

WeChat Mini Programs have amassed over 230 million DAU and is expected to increase to 350 million DAU by the end of 2019. (from aldwx.com《2018年微信小程序行业发展白皮书》). Considering only 800 million of China’s population has access to the internet, WeChat Mini Programs are a great success.

In 2 years’ time, the total number of WeChat Mini Programs available has exceeded 2.3 million, from more than 200 industry segments according to Aldwx.com. In comparison to Apple’s App Store with 2.1 million apps and The Google Play Store with 2.6 million apps as of early 2019.

Statistics showing the number of WeChat Mini Programs vs Google Play & the App Store

The number of WeChat Mini Programs has quickly caught up to the total number of apps on both the app store and Google Play.

The Types of WeChat Mini-Programs

WeChat Mini programs are diverse in their appearance, features, and purpose. However, they can mostly be classified into 4 distinct groups: Games, News, Utility, and E-Commerce. While there are other apps that don’t necessarily fit into these categories make up the bulk of WeChat Mini Programs. Let’s take a look at each in the sections below.

Types of WeChat Mini Program: WeChat Mini Games

First introduced on 28 December 2017, WeChat Mini Games are miniature games within WeChat that can be accessed through the discover tab with no installation. They’ve proved incredibly popular as you can see from the graphs below!

Two graphs showing average daily use & time spent on WeChat mini games

WeChat Mini Games are clearly on an up-trend as can be seen from the charts above

There are currently over 7,000 mini games and over 100 million DAU. In December 2018, the average daily usage is 6.4 times and daily average online time is 17.4 minutes according to Aldzs.com.

Example of WeChat Mini Games – Jump Jump (Tiao Yi Tiao)

Jump Jump is one of the 15 pilot mini games developed by Tencent. Since its release on 28 December 2017, it topped the aldzs.com Index Chart consecutively for almost 300 days. In the first 3 days, Jump Jump accumulated 400 million players and 170 million DAU. This was largely due to the interactive nature of WeChat Mini Games.

At the ending scene of Jump Jump, a player’s score is ranked with friends from WeChat Moments. It gives players the incentive to achieve a higher score and rank above their friends. Players can also share their scores or invite friends to battle.

Tiao Yi Tiao - an example of a popular WeChat mini game

Tiao Yi Tiao was incredibly popular. If you have any friends in China it’s almost guaranteed that they’ve at least given it a try!

How Can Companies Make Use Of WeChat Mini Games?

First, developers of WeChat Mini Games can share 50% of the daily advertising revenue generated through the game with no upper limit. If you are lucky enough to be verified as a ‘creative game’ developer, you can even get 70% when daily advertising revenue is less than 2 million RMB.

Second, developers of WeChat Mini Games can share revenue from in-game purchases. For monthly transaction volumes below 500 thousand RMB, Tencent will not charge any service fees and the developer receives 100% of all in-app purchase revenues. For monthly transaction volumes above 500 thousand RMB, Tencent will charge 40% of the total amount as service fee and the developer retains the remaining 60%.

The current market size for WeChat Mini Games is 60 billion RMB and is expected to continue growing in the future. As mini-games account for 15% of the top-100 WeChat Mini Programs in May 2019, third-highest by industry segments, it could be a good start for those interested in developing Mini Programs.

Types of WeChat Mini Programs: Utility & Transport

Since the introduction of WeChat Pay in 2013, Tencent has been promoting it as ‘more than an e-payment system’. This goal has been realized as WeChat has grown into an all-in-one platform.

For utilities, Tencent introduced WeChat City Services in Guangzhou in 2014. This function enables users to access 16 different public sector services, such as healthcare, education, utilities, etc.

Actions like settling utility bills and more can now be done on WeChat through Mini Programs. As the usage rate increase, the service area has expanded to 13 cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai.

You can now pay utility bills and access other services by clicking the public services button, shown here.

Simply Click the Public Services Button (Left) to see exactly what types of services you can access (Right).

Public transit has been the major focus among the sectors under Tencent’s “Project Offline: Public Transit in 2017”. As of 2018, 134 cities have created WeChat Mini Programs for Smart Transport, like The Shenzhen Metro and Shanghai Public Transport. Transport is the third largest category in WeChat Pay (after retail and catering services) and is the fastest growing with a 25-fold increase in the number of transactions from 2017.

WeChat users simply need to open the Mini-Program and scan the QR code to pay for their public transport, shown here.

WeChat users simply need to open the Mini-Program and scan the QR code to pay for their public transport

In 2018, WeChat’s DAU for bus service exceeded 200 million and WeChat’s DAU for metro service was over 50 million (From annual WeChat Conference 2019 ‘With Us’). On average, 250 thousand users use WeChat QR Code to access bus or metro services every minute during morning rush hour.

WeChat users going cashless on public transport thanks to WeChat Pay
Public transport has become mostly cashless thanks to WeChat Pay

Public transport has become mostly cashless thanks to WeChat Pay

Apart from public services and public transit, there are many other online services that can be done with utility WeChat Mini Programs. Let’s check out an example below.

Example of WeChat Utility Mini Programs – Dian

Dian provides power bank rental service to over 10 million users from more than 70 cities through its WeChat Mini Program.

The LBS technology locates the nearest service point for users and the real-time feature shows usage time and the corresponding service fee. Using a WeChat Mini Program, users can instantly access the service anytime.

Dian stations like those shown above can now be found in dozens of cities across China

Dian stations like those shown above can now be found in dozens of cities across China

How Can Companies Make Use of WeChat Utility Mini Programs?

For businesses that provide utility service, like the above example, WeChat Mini Programs are a great choice. WeChat Mini Programs offer easily accessible online services and with built-in LBS technology, users can also easily enjoy in-person services.

Types of WeChat Mini Programs: News & Information

Following the trend of new media, WeChat has become an effective channel for content distribution. With the large user base of WeChat, the spread of information is much more efficient than traditional channels such as newspapers and media sites.

Under this new form of media, non-traditional sources and channels of information have become available, the most popular being the so-called “We Media” (also called self-media). We Media refers to the personalized and democratized blog and media providers hosted on China’s online platforms in general. These communicators can take the form of a blogger, a Youtuber, a Podcast host or a member of a Group Chat, etc. In China, everyone can create their own information channel.

The rise of social media and other platforms in China has led to the rise of new forms of media

The rise of social media and other platforms in China has led to the rise of new forms of media. We Media have become incredibly influential due to this phenomenon

Example of WeChat News Mini Programs – The People’s Daily

Major Chinese news media like The People’s Daily and Xinhua News have already created Mini Programs on WeChat. Through WeChat, instant updates can be spread to the readers in a very short period of time. In 2019, The People’s Daily had over 11 million subscribers on WeChat and was named the most influential WeChat Official Account on the platform.

The mini program for The People's Daily lets users access and share news quickly

The Mini Program for The People’s Daily allows users to access news quickly and share it to their contacts through groups or WeChat Moments.

How Can Companies Make Use of WeChat News Mini Programs?

While WeChat Official Account serves as a channel for releasing updates, WeChat Mini Programs serve as a platform for interacting with users.

Like news media, constant updates on Official Account and mini-programs keep users informed and newly released information can be spread rapidly through sharing on WeChat Moments and group chats.

Types of WeChat Mini Programs: E-Commerce

WeChat Mini Programs have become a new channel for e-commerce in China and 18% of the Mini Programs on WeChat are dedicated to this category. Exploring the potentials of e-commerce Mini Programs will be a vital step to further commercializing WeChat.

WeChat serves as a great platform O2O due to the large DAU base and its smooth integration with WeChat Pay. This is why well-known shopping platforms like JD.com, Xiaohungshu, and Meituan also have their own Wechat Mini Programs. These Mini Programs serve a complementary function to their standalone apps.

The only difference is that with Mini Programs, customers can quickly complete a closed-loop purchase process without ever leaving WeChat.

Statistics relating to WeChat mini programs usage

JD’s Mini-Program had a significant impact on its sales during 618

On 618 (a mid-year shopping festival in China) alone, the number of orders via WeChat Mini Programs increased by 66 times and 53 million new users joined. Overall, total social commerce Mini Programs on WeChat increased by 68% from 2017 to 2018, resulting in a 25% increase in WeChat-driven traditional consumption, which is defined as non-information consumption, in 2018.

Chart showing the increase in sales of clothes, foods & other goods on WeChat since 2016

Sales of traditional goods like clothes, foods, and other goods on WeChat has been steadily increasing since 2016

Example of WeChat E-Commerce Mini Programs – JD.com

JD.com is China’s second largest firm, behind Alibaba’s Tmall, for B2C e-commerce in China. JD.com has a standalone app on The Apple App Store and on Google Play, yet they also created their own WeChat Mini Program. As of Q1 2018, JD.com has over 86 million active users on their WeChat Mini Program, second only to PinDuoDuo.

618 (18 June) is a mid-year shopping festival in China, many platforms including JD.com offer discounts on products. During 618 of 2018, JD.com recorded total transaction volumes of 159.2 billion.

With the small file size of WeChat Mini Programs, the pages can be loaded quickly without eating up storage or data. This helps to capture users’ impulse purchases.

Different pages across the JD.com WeChat Mini-Program

Different pages across the JD.com WeChat Mini-Program

JD also launched a service called the Kepler Mini-Program Solution. This solution allows brands with a presence on JD.com to easily set up a WeChat Mini-Program with all the product information seamlessly transferred onto the platform. It essentially provides infrastructure to easily create a WeChat mini-program with data provided from a brand’s store on JD.com. Over 2,000 brands have joined the program as of April 2018.

How Can Companies Make Use of WeChat E-Commerce Mini Programs?

For companies that provide products or services at about 200RMB, targeted mainly at females and the fashion industry. Mini programs are more effective if the company already has an Official Account on WeChat, which serves as an access point for 14% of the users.

The average monthly expenditure via WeChat Mini Programs is 200RMB. In terms of gender distribution, 71% of the WeChat e-commerce mini-program users are female as of H1 2018. In terms of industry distribution, fashion industry accounts for 29% and has the highest growth rate.

Chart showing monthly expenditure on WeChat Mini Programs

Most Users of WeChat Mini-Programs spend between 200-500 RMB per month

The Main Benefits of WeChat Mini Programs

#1 Access to WeChat’s Massive User Base

WeChat has over 1 billion registered users, meaning there are a lot of potential customers within the ecosystem. Mini Programs are a great way to differentiate yourself and provide an improved user experience for WeChat users.

#2 The Ability to Offer More for Less

WeChat Mini Programs are smaller, cheaper and in many ways better than a traditional app or website. With just 10MB, it has all the functions of a standalone app or website. It is also simpler and cheaper to develop compared to a native app. WeChat Mini Programs are better because they enable interaction between users and the company, not just one-way communication.

#3 Ready to Use

WeChat Mini Programs are highly accessible. As small sub-applications, Mini Programs require no prior installation and can be loaded quickly. Users can enter through the standalone access point or customized shortcuts on the homepage without leaving WeChat.

WeChat Mini Program – A New Type of WeChat Advertising

WeChat Mini Program Advertising is a new addition to the many types of WeChat Advertising. Proper advertising can be useful in raising brand awareness and directing traffic to your WeChat Official Account and mini-program.

Wondering what the steps are to get started with WeChat Advertising? Check out our blog for more details!

WeChat Advertising 101: All You Need to Know

Differences Between H5 Pages and WeChat Mini Programs

Before the introduction of WeChat Mini Programs, most WeChat advertisements used an H5 landing page. However, mini-programs offer much more functionality as compared to standard H5 pages.

Table showing advantages of WeChat Mini Programs over traditional H5 pages.

WeChat Mini Programs provide a huge number of advantages over traditional H5 pages

In addition, to stand alone access points, users can now create shortcuts for WeChat Mini Programs on their homepage. We can expect to see a growing trend of mini-program landing pages on WeChat as more advertisers switch from H5. For a more comprehensive answer check out this post on Zhihu (in Chinese, you can always Goolgle translate if necessary 😅)

For more on H5 and WeChat Marketing You can check out the blog below:

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to WeChat Official Accounts for Business

Case Study on Successful WeChat Mini Programs – PinDuoDuo

It is one thing to develop a WeChat Mini Program but leveraging the benefits is a completely different story.

PinDuoDuo started as with a native app in September 2015. Their idea was to form a community of individual buyers who were interested in the same product and offer the group a lower price than retail.

PinDuoDuo logo

As of Q4 2018, there were 272.6 million MAU (increased by 93%) and GMV reached 471.6 billion (increased by 234%) on PinDuoDuo.

Many ask, how did such a young business rise to become one of the most popular Chinese shopping apps?

In Late 2017, PinDuoDuo created its WeChat Mini Program, which has contributed greatly to their success. By using the Mini Program users of PinDuoDuo can share links to their WeChat Moments or group chats to gather as much collective buying power as possible.

This situation has helped PinDuoDuo grow tremendously. For users, they invite friends to enjoy a lower price through group buying. To PinDuoDuo, existing users are promoting their company and helping them to attract new users. It is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Comparison Between PinDuoDuo’s WeChat Mini Program and the Native App

Comparison Between PinDuoDuo’s WeChat Mini Program and the Native App

PinDuoDuo’s native app is 63.2MB on App Store and WeChat Mini Program is only 10MB. While you might think this would compromise the user experience on the mini-program, the layout is almost the same as the native app. There are still five tabs at the bottom. Apart from the top category tabs replaced with a search bar, there is no major difference in the home page.

A comparison of native app and wechat mini program screens

Moving on to the product page, the layout is exactly the same as the native app, with an extra share button beside the product name. This is a shortcut directed to users’ chat rooms. This function leverage WeChat’s group chat by allowing users to share product link with friends quickly and efficiently.

Demographics of Pin Duo Duo’s WeChat Mini Program and Native App (March 2018)

The user distribution of Pin Duo Duo’s WeChat Mini Program and the native app are very similar. For gender, both types have about 70%, female users. In terms of age, both have mostly younger users with over 70% aged below 30. Compared to the native app, WeChat Mini Programs have more users from tier 3 or below and a greater proportion of users have an average monthly expenditure of 200RMB.


Four charts showing the demographics of Pin Duo Duo’s WeChat Mini Program and Native AppThe main reason for PinDuoDuo’s success with WeChat Mini Program is because their design matches their users’ habits. First, every time a user shares the product link, it is basically a new access point. This increased the accessibility to and exposure of PinDuoDuo’s mini program on WeChat.

Also, like other e-commerce WeChat Mini Programs, the entire purchase process can be completed on WeChat. This provides convenience to users and helps to capture impulse purchases.

The User interface of the WeChat Mini Program is largely the same as PinDuoDuo’s native app. There is not much difference in user experience from both platforms. Existing users will not refuse to use the Mini Program and new users from WeChat can still get the full experience with PinDuoDuo.

Future Trends of WeChat Mini Programs

Graphic showing more and more brands creating their own WeChat mini programs

More and more brands are creating their very own WeChat Mini Programs.

WeChat Mini Programs cover more than 200 industries and continue to rise in number. In 2018, the WeChat-driven information consumption was 240.2 billion RMB and traditional consumption was 419.8 billion RMB. Meanwhile, WeChat created 22 million job openings in the same year according to QQ News.

WeChat has a high penetration rate in China with over 90% of local users. To expand the user base, WeChat has to look into the overseas market. Previously, international businesses have been forced to operate through a domestic intermediary for opening a WeChat Official Account.

Tencent has been steadily reducing the barriers to entry for non-Chinese, allowing international businesses to create their own WeChat Mini Program. With this direction in mind, it’s likely WeChat will continue its efforts to further explore the overseas market.

Two charts showing retention rates and time spent on Mini Programs since 2017

Retention rates and Time spent on Mini Programs have both increased since 2017

The increasing retention rates and daily time spent for WeChat Mini Programs suggest a high user stickiness. Though it is unknown whether mini-programs will take over in the future, the number of advertisement and ad revenue on WeChat Mini Programs are expected to rise in the near future.

As WeChat progresses into an all-in-one platform, will Mini Programs eventually replace standalone apps in China? A survey co-authored by research agency Kueclub (酷鹅研究院) and Tencent Research & Development found that 70% of users are optimistic about the future of mini-programs and over 40 percent believe that mini-programs can completely replace stand-alone applications. Considering all this, the future for WeChat Mini-Programs looks bright indeed.

So Who Are We?

Dragon Social is a China Digital Marketing Agency dedicated to providing expert solutions to businesses around the world! Our team of professionals will take a deep dive into your business and determine the optimal channels and strategies for promoting your business in China, so be sure to contact us for a free consultation!

If you would like to receive more information or get notified when we create new content like this, Subscribe to Our Newsletter for future updates straight to your mailbox!