WeChat announced it expanded its userbase by 3% at the end of Q1 2020, exceeding 1.2 billion users for the first time. It is one of the biggest social media platforms in China, and no marketing plan is complete without it. But when it comes to WeChat marketing, there are a lot of different ways brands can reach and engage their audiences.
Perhaps one of the most effective features for marketing on WeChat are the Mini Programmes. These can be thought of as sub applications within the WeChat ecosystem, designed to offer a wide range of uses for e-commerce, mobile games, news and utilities all without ever needing to download additional mobile apps or leave the WeChat environment.
Users can find Mini Programmes on WeChat through direct searches, scanning QR codes, links from branded accounts, or based on their location using geographic targeting to find Mini Programmes nearby.
The number of WeChat Mini Programmes has exploded exponentially from 1 million in 2018 to 300 million at the end of 2019. Because WeChat has such wide uptake across China, it is even used to facilitate communication between local government and citizens. But e-commerce is set to be the biggest use case for WeChat Mini Programmes.
Around 18% of all programmes are dedicated to e-commerce. Pretty much every brand in China is on WeChat and many of those now have Mini Programmes too including shopping platforms like JD.com, Xiaohungshu and Meituan. Their Mini Programmes serve as complementary channels to their other e-commerce channels as part of a larger holistic strategy.
WeChat is now a powerful e-commerce channel as it has both a large userbase of daily active users, as well as integrated payment functions. In China, Alipay and WeChat pay are the two most popular mobile payment methods, completely changing the way people pay for goods and services using QR codes and phones.
For brands on WeChat, this means they can provide a seamless journey to their audience as they consume content, interact with Mini Programmes and move on to purchases. It’s a closed loop purchasing process all from within the WeChat mobile app.
Additionally, WeChat is optimizing the back-office operations of running an e-commerce channel with a logistics assistant to help small and medium sized merchants to quickly and efficiently operate across multiple logistics companies.
Already some brands have used this new e-commerce channel to their advantage. Dian provides power bank rental services to over 10 million users in over 70 cities across China. People use their mini program to locate the nearest charging service point in real time. One of the largest e-commerce platforms JD.com has over 120 million monthly active users on their WeChat mini program, offering discounts on simple pages that load quickly allowing them to capture impulse purchases on the fly.
This evolution is part of a larger trend we can see across social media channels all over the world. Over the last few years, the way we use social media has changed a lot which has reshaped the customer decision making journey. Discovery and intent used to be separated meaning social media was used to discover good finds, and later the customer would visit the brand’s website with intent to purchase. Today, discovery and intent are taking place on the same channel – social media promotes, social media sells.
Instagram for example has shoppable posts, which are posts that allow users to click on product images that you have tagged. That takes them to the product page to complete the purchase. In some countries, users get the full checkout experience without ever having to leave the Instagram app.
Social media today has become an effective e-commerce tool, proving to be an important commercial element of the marketing strategy. If you’re marketing to an audience based in China, WeChat needs to be part of your plan and Mini Programmes are definitely worth exploring as a tool to elevate the digital experience your brand provides.