The biggest long term threat to Apple is probably not Samsung, Android or the Chinese cheap phone makers, but the WeChat Mini App. WeChat, the Chinese leading social app, has launched a new platform called Mini App, which has the potential to reconfigure smartphones radically.
What is WeChat Mini App?
Simply speaking, Mini App is a one-app-rule-them-all concept. Instead of downloading an actual app, Mini App allows users to open an app page within WeChat. Ever since the launch of WeChat, the Chinese are used to having everything in one app – from ordering food, booking a doctor to paying bills. Apps work better if you embed them in a single program, rather than let them spread across your home screen.
Mini App solves two major problems
This simple webapp concept may not sound very revolutionary, but it solves two big problems. First of all, Mini App means less space is needed on your smartphones. The average size of an app increases when developers add new features and more media to the app. This, of course, is not a problem if a smartphone has lots of memory space. But if you have ever used a 16GB iPhone, you would know what I mean. With Mini App, users only need to get a link or scan a QR code to the app page. Since no installation is needed for Mini App, users are more motivated to try new apps.
Secondly, Mini App means less registration hassles on different apps. Typing in all your personal information to register on an app can be quite annoying. When it comes to an e-commerce app, you have to provide your credit card information. This is when you start thinking if the app is safe to use, if your credit card information is secured, if there would be identity thief, how the app developer would use my personal information, etc. With Mini App, payments are done by WeChat wallet. Hence, users don’t have to store their credit information on another app.
How do brands benefit from Mini App?
On average, the Chinese spend 90 minutes on WeChat every day. With the launch of Mini App, it means that users will spend even longer time on the app or technically, they don’t have to leave the app at all. What does this mean to your business?
1. Reducing the cost for smaller businesses
It is good news for startups or small businesses that have a tight budget. Developing an app is not cheap, not to mention you have to build for two markets, Android and iOS. For example, a tech startup in Shanghai that specializes in building 3D digital models for brick-and-mortar buildings, said that it may cost them around 40 000-50 000 USD to develop an app. However, if they develop the software in the WeChat built-in programme, it will cost them only 15 000 USD. Moreover, in traditional app stores, you need to pay for distribution and promotion to get noticed. With Mini App, it is easy to just share you app page and QR code on your social media channels.
2. Branding and engagement through the app
Mini app also increases the opportunities for branding and engagement for your business. Brands will be able to create store or service apps or games with Mini App to engage their followers for a longer time and increase traffic by providing multiple entry points to their official accounts. A gaming app could be a good way to make your brand go viral. The Chinese are very into addictive and instant gratification games. Ultimately, the game should encourage users to share content or results on their own WeChat accounts. Your business doesn’t have to be in the gaming industry. Any brands can create small games that are related to their brands, as long as they are addictive and shareable.
With the introduction to the Mini App feature, there are fewer and fewer reasons for users to leave the WeChat app. Taking advantage of this new feature could open more business opportunities for you in China.