With more than 938 million monthly active users at the end of the first quarter of 2017 and accounting for 29 percent of mobile app utilization in China, WeChat is hands down China’s leading super app.
One of the reasons for WeChat’s popularity is the ability to make online purchases. In 2016 more than 30% of WeChat users made purchases on the platform compared to just 15% in 2015. Today, more and more brands are looking to sell on WeChat. Some luxury brands like Swarovski, Dior and Longchamp have taken the plunge. WeChat is no longer a choice but a necessity for brands that want to sustain their growth in China.
Earlier this year, WeChat introduced Mini programs on the platform, a game changer that will reshape the current WeChat e-commerce standard.
What are Mini Programs?
WeChat mini programs launched last January. Commonly known also as “mini application”, the Mini Program is a newly developed capability within the WeChat platform that are accessible without downloading any other application making it a strong alternative for H5 and mobile applications.
To date, thousands of mini programs have been launched covering a multitude of industries. For example: food ordering, movie ticket booking, bike sharing, online shopping, picture editing and so on…however in this article, we will focus on the online shopping functionality.
How Can We Sell on WeChat?
Mini programs represent a serious option for brands to sell on WeChat, Therefore, it is legitimate for brands to (re)consider what is the best solution to adopt.
Here’s a sum-up of the current options for selling on WeChat.
At first glance, the difference between H5 and Mini Program may not be obvious. Here we will breakdown the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Firs, the stand-alone website (1) is the most expensive and time consuming to build, however you have full control of the design and access to the data.
The marketplace (2) is a good way to get easy traffic but commissions are high, brands have a limited control of the design and vision of the traffic.
E-shop (3) is very flexible in terms of design and layout. In addition, various vendors have developed platforms dedicated for WeChat that provide a better navigation experience than the first two options however many come with a high deposit and management fees.
Mini Program E-shop (4) is a new way to generate direct sales on WeChat. Fairly similar to the H5 e-shop in term of capabilities and strategy, the main strengths of the mini program are the fast loading speed and the fact that unlike other solutions, all the data is stored within WeChat’s ecosystem.
However as with any new development, the market is not as mature and it can therefore difficult to find all the necessary information.
Many marketers have been trying for a long time to figure out how to sell directly on WeChat. With the emergence of mini programs, a built-in function in WeChat: brands now have another option.
What’s the difference between an H5 and Mini Programs?
If you are choosing between a Mini App or H5 for a WeChat Store, the differences are not major. Nevertheless, those following specificities might be useful to know before making your decision.
1.Loading page speed and navigation
As is it fully integrated within the WeChat ecosystem, the loading time is optimised and is faster than H5.
For the same reason, the number of clicks between the product and the payment are faster.
2. Accessibility and visibility of a mini program
Mini Program can be easily found compared to H5 (only 4 ways). Users can locate mini programs for retail stores using geolocalization, by scanning a QR code, and even directly from the official account page, giving them high visibility compared to H5s
For example, F&B brands including Starbucks and McDonalds display banners with the mini program’s QR code and in their offline point of sales to incite users to connect to the mini program. From a marketing point of view, it’s a great idea – vouchers help to drive conversions and customers benefit from add-value services like “click & collect”.
From the brand side, they can keep track of all the purchase story and build a E-loyalty program.
3.Embedded in WeChat ecosystem
Compared to H5 that have no specific ecosystem, mini program is fully integrated in Tencent platform which enables direct tracking and monitoring. Users don’t need to leave WeChat to shop.
The potential is even higher when working with a third-party technology company that manages brand’s WeChat Account (like CuriosityChina) as they can even leverage the buyer history to send segmented push promotions on the brand WeChat. It’s a great way to unite social data and customer data.
4.Development time and cost
Time and cost depend largely on the developer capability and price policy.
So far, there is no major difference between the H5 and mini program.
Both solutions are easy to manage in terms of day to day operations. Brands can achieve similar results with both options depending on the developer’s capabilities.
6. Payment method
Mini Programs are limited to the WeChat Payment system however, an H5 WeChat shop can support all the standard payment options.
The fact that it is contained within the WeChat ecosystem makes the Mini Program more stable and more secure than an H5 shop.
8. Store Creation
Mini Program creation relies on Tencent approval and official accounts are currently limited to three mini programs. As H5s are independent, they require less paperwork than their mini program counterparts, so if you are administration averse, the H5 is a better option.
Are Mini Programs really a Game Changer?
The mini program is a real game changer. It represents a solid alternative to both the H5 and standard mobile applications and is fully integrated within the WeChat ecosystem.
The challenge for mini programs as they are quite new, is a low level of awareness coupled with fairly regular updates from Tencent.