WeChat mini programs guide

How to launch WeChat Mini-Program for your brand in China [Guide]

Last Updated on April 25, 2024

When WeChat launched Mini-Programs in 2017, it was met with skepticism. Today, this feature has created over 3.5 million sub-applications from various industries. More than 924 million monthly active users are also utilizing it, covering around 90% of the platform’s population.

As an integral part of the WeChat ecosystem, developing a mini-program for your brand meant driving more traffic to your landing pages and making your offerings more accessible to Chinese consumers.

In this post, we’ll explore the importance of WeChat mini-programs for your market entry in China and the steps you must take to integrate these services more effectively.

 

What is the WeChat mini program?

WeChat mini-programs are sub-applications created by companies and individuals to manage and serve the demands of their target audience.

Unlike traditional apps, these services are integrated within the platform and don’t require users to download another software to access their features. The mini-program development can accommodate varying services and features, including e-commerce stores, deliveries, reservations, and games.

 

Starbucks WeChat mini program

Example of a WeChat Mini-Program (Starbucks China)

 

Many brands create their own mini-program to customize consumer journeys, from product discovery to the payment process. This consistent flow allows a business to capture the attention of its target audience and increases the chances of sales conversions.

Back then, users had to input the required information before getting access to a specific mini-program and its features. This is why companies often consider this platform a convenient tool for lead generation.

However, as the privacy laws in China tightened, the amount of data that can be requested and how it can be gathered in WeChat mini-programs became strictly limited. Nevertheless, the user experiences that these in-app programs offer are almost as varied in scope and design as standard Android or iOS apps.

 

How is the mini-program platform usually accessed on WeChat?

  • QR Codes

Besides your official WeChat account profile, mini-programs are a gateway for consumers to get to know your brand and the products you’re offering.

You can create a customized QR code for this sub-application and strategically place it across various marketing channels, such as on product packaging, at physical stores, or during events.

A WeChat QR code can also come in handy when launching online campaigns on other social media platforms or offline-to-online (O2O) marketing strategies. By using the versatility of this tool, you can diversify the way consumers discover and engage with your mini-program.

 

WeChat mini program qr code

1883 – Maison Routin’s Customized Mini-Program QR Code

 

  • In-App Search

Users can use the in-app search function within the WeChat ecosystem to find mini-programs directly. This feature is powerful for visibility and accessibility as it allows these sub-applications to be discovered by name or keywords related to their services and products.

The app’s search features recorded over 800 million monthly active users in 2023. With this amount of reach, optimizing your WeChat mini-programs with relevant keywords and tags can help you attract more traffic beyond the users following the brand’s official account.

Remember, most users searching for keywords related to your services or products already have the purchasing intent. When your own mini-program appears on top of the search results for an industry-specific term, the chances of engagement can be higher.

 

Example of WeChat Mini Programs on top of search results page

Example of WeChat Mini Programs on top of search results page

 

  • Chat History

When users interact with a WeChat mini-program account, it can be saved in their chat history, allowing for easy future access. This entry point is handy for retaining user engagement, as it places the mini-program within immediate reach without the need to enter a specific keyword or scan a QR code again.

The one-on-one communication between brands and users can also work in your favor. Encourage your followers to share the mini-program within chats for loyalty perks. This strategy can increase organic reach through personal networks and enhance user re-engagement through the convenience of chat history.

 

Mini programs accesses in WeChat

 

How To Develop A WeChat Mini Program For Your Brand in China?

●     Third-party SaaS and CRM Solutions

Companies with no existing technical knowledge of how to develop and launch WeChat mini-programs can rely on third-party software providers like Weimob, Weidan, or SXL.CN.

These services require no software development experience because they provide a simple editing interface, the kind that one might expect from Western site-building platforms like WordPress.

 

SXL Editor WeChat mini program builder

SXL Editor

 

The development costs for creating WeChat mini-programs through these tools are much lower than building the entire sub-application from scratch or hiring expert developers.

However, you must remember that some of these services offer industry-specific templates. Typically, these platforms only allow a certain amount of customizability.

This is not the most recommended process if you want to stand out with something completely fresh and design a unique UX or UI. However, they’re incredibly convenient tools for a simple e-commerce mini-program.

WeChat CRMs can also offer services that help manage and maintain your mini-programs. Their offered features range from backend settings customization and e-commerce templates to personalized messaging and VIP membership management.

 

Weimob’s Backend Customization

Weimob’s Backend Customization

 

●     Develop from scratch or hire Mini-Program Developers

Companies with enough budget can choose to create a WeChat mini-program through technical programming. Whether you decide to take on this task using your own knowledge or outsource a developer, the advantage of taking this route is that your customization options won’t be limited to one template.

Anyone working on this sub-application needs a good grasp of JavaScript and knows how to code other languages that compile to JS, such as TypeScript and Kotlin.

WeChat mini-programs don’t run on traditional HTML5. Instead, these functions use its simulated variant, often referred to as H5. Understanding this is important because it affects how you script and design your mini-program.

 

Using Lambda AWS Gateway to create a WeChat Mini-Program

 

For those interested in creating more dynamic and visually engaging mini-programs, like games, don’t forget that WeChat supports APIs for Canvas 2D and WebGL. These technologies allow for the rendering of sophisticated animations and graphics.

If you plan to launch games through this mini-app, popular China-based game engines like Cocos Creator, Egret, and Laya are your main options. They’re well-suited for WeChat’s platform and can help make the development process easier.

 

How much does it cost to build a WeChat mini-program?

The development cost of a WeChat mini-program depends on the feature and layout you decide to include in the sub-application. Lower-end templates typically cost around $3,000 or more.

Meanwhile, highly customized WeChat mini-programs created from scratch may incur higher development costs, starting from $15,000.

 

What to do after developing your own mini-program

Your brand profile must be registered and authenticated before you can link your mini-program to the company’s official WeChat account. Businesses can open two types of official accounts on this platform: Subscription and Service.

 

differences between WeChat service account and subscription account

Available features for Subscription and Service WeChatAccounts

 

Linking to a Service Account is crucial for mini-programs that handle transactions and sales. To register, you will need to provide:

  • A business license
  • Information about the brand’s Chinese representative
  • A bank account number in China
  • Verification fee of 300 RMB

 

Once your official account is active, the next step is to link your mini-program. This part of the process involves technical steps and might not be fully available in English.

Register your mini-program through the official account’s admin panel to receive a unique linking key. This code is then used to create an account association, securing the connection between your mini-program and your official WeChat account.

 

Last but not least,  ensure your mini-program is easily accessible by setting it up in your official account’s custom menu. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Navigate to the ‘Custom Menu’ tab on the backend.
  2. Add a new menu item and select ‘Jump to Mini Program’.
  3. Click the ‘Select a Mini Program’ button to link to your specific mini-program.
  4. Once selected, publish the menu.

 

Link WeChat mini program to WeChat menu

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced in July 2023 that all mobile internet apps, including WeChat mini-programs, must undergo ICP registration. You can access the guide released by the platform for the actual steps on how to proceed with this procedure. In the meantime, here are the requirements you may need to prepare:

  • Business License
  • ID card of company representative
  • ID card of the person handling the mini-program
  • Facial verification of the mini-program operator
  • Any additional requirements demanded by provincial communications bureaus

 

What are the advantages of a WeChat mini program?

  1. WeChat Pay Integration

Many users consider WeChat Pay to be a convenient tool for managing their financial needs and cashless transactions. In fact, this e-wallet feature reached an impressive user base of 1.225 billion in 2024.

The widespread adoption of this feature, paired with the accessibility of WeChat mini-programs, allows businesses to facilitate secure and fast transactions for tech-savvy Chinese consumers.

Users can make purchases, pay for services, or even book tickets without leaving the platform, providing a hassle-free shopping experience. For businesses, the seamless WeChat Pay integration means potentially higher conversion rates as the buying process is simplified, and users do not need to enter payment information repeatedly.

 

WeChat Pay Website Homepage

WeChat Pay Website Homepage

 

  1. Cost-Effective Development and Maintenance

Developing and maintaining a mini-program is less costly and complex than creating a standalone mobile app. These sub-applications do not require users to download or update them through app stores, which can reduce the barrier to entry for potential customers.

Since they are lighter in terms of data and storage requirements, they are faster to develop and easier to maintain, making them an economically viable option for businesses of all sizes.

 

  1. Live-streaming Capabilities

Yes, you read that right. You can launch live streams through WeChat mini-programs. All you need to do is connect it with the app’s Channels feature and utilize its tools to post real-time content for users already following your brand’s official account.

Most companies launch WeChat Mini-Program live streams to introduce new products to their target market or create a sales event where they can showcase their offerings and engage with their audiences in a more interactive manner.

 

Sephora’s Mini-Program Live-streaming Content on WeChat

 

Best Strategies to Promote Your WeChat Mini-Program

  1. Explore WeChat Groups

WeChat groups are a pivotal asset for building a community around your brand. You can use this feature to share exclusive deals, product updates, and personalized assistance for users interested in purchasing or engaging with your mini-program.

You can engage directly with potential customers by joining or creating groups related to your niche. It’s also crucial to provide value in the discussions within the community rather than just pushing sales to build trust and maintain a positive reputation.

 

How to save groups in WeChat

How to access WeChat Groups

 

  1. Take Advantage of WeChat’s Social Features

WeChat offers a range of social features like Moments, where users can share updates, photos, and links. Utilize these features by posting engaging content that highlights your products and the lifestyle they represent.

You can also use the brand’s official account to publish articles or news that direct traffic to your mini-program. These marketing strategies help keep your brand top-of-mind among your followers.

 

Dior WeChat post going to mini program

Dior WeChat post going to their mini program

 

  1. Collaborate with Key Opinion Leaders

Key Opinion Leaders are similar to influencers in Western markets but often carry even greater authority in China due to the highly social and community-oriented nature of Chinese digital platforms.

The KOL categories include celebrities, industry experts, or even regular consumers. These people have built-in, loyal followings that trust their recommendations and opinions about specific products and services.

When a KOL shares content about a mini-program, your brand not only benefits from its broad audience reach but also from its existing authority and credibility within the platform.

 

Live streaming on WeChat channels

Host doing product demo on WeChat

 

It’s essential to collaborate with KOLs who align with your brand’s values and have a following that matches your target demographic. Rather than one-off posts, it’ll be more beneficial in the long run if you develop long-term partnerships with influential personalities in your industry to maintain brand credibility among consumers.

You must also ensure that KOLs disclose the nature of their collaboration with your brand. Remember, Chinese consumers value transparency, and resorting to traditional advertising tricks can affect the credibility of these endorsements.

 

UI/UX Tips When Launching Mini-Programs on WeChat

  • Be Mindful of Size Limitations

WeChat Mini Programs have a strict size limit of 10MB, much smaller than typical native apps that may exceed 200MB. This size constraint significantly impacts how you handle the application’s UX and UI design.

To accommodate this requirement, you must identify and focus on the most essential features of your WeChat mini-program. If you can, try to limit the use of large media files and complex interactive elements. Opt for optimized images and lightweight animations.

 

  • Minimalist and Intuitive Design

Recent trends within WeChat Mini Programs indicate a shift towards minimalism, moving away from the traditionally dense, information-heavy designs favored in many Chinese digital products.

Research well-established sub-applications in the platform to understand common design patterns and functionalities. This can help create a user-friendly interface that feels familiar to the average WeChat user.

 

  • Utilize Analytics

At the end of the day, the WeChat mini-program is a tool that serves the needs of Chinese consumers. So, tweaking and updating its designs and functions every now and then is only natural.

Check the analytics regularly to gain insights into how users interact with your Mini Program, which features they use most, and where they encounter difficulties.

 

You may also want to read:

WeChat Marketing guide 2024

 

Your Trusted WeChat Marketing Partner in China!

WeChat is an integral part of China’s digital market. With your offerings highly accessible in a mini-program, you can attract your target audiences and generate potential sales conversions without redirecting them to another e-commerce channel.

 

Sekkei Digital Group Services

 

For a more in-depth guide on how to leverage mini-programs, feel free to reach out to us here at Sekkei Digital Group. Our WeChat marketing team is experienced in helping from planning to execution, maintenance to analytics, and can offer advice on the legal side of operating these sub-applications.

 

contact us SDG

 

References:

All Apps and Mini Programs to be Registered by End of March 2024
WeChat Mini Program – All you need to know
All You Need to Know About WeChat Mini Programs

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