Apps within an app shake up mobile shopping in China

Apps within an app shake up mobile shopping in China

Mini-program applets within Tencent’s WeChat messaging program allow retailers and brands to sell to mobile shoppers and tie into popular marketing programs.

It’s easy to get jaded by big numbers coming out of China, but when a new service attracts 170 million daily users in its first year, that’s worth noting. And it’s especially worth noting when the internet giant behind the service, online gaming and social media company Tencent Holdings Ltd., predicts daily users will nearly triple in its second year to 480 million.

Called Mini-Programs, this is a technology that allows retailers, brands, bloggers and other organizations and individuals to offer services and coupons to consumers from within the ubiquitous-in-China WeChat (or Weixin) messaging app. For example, a consumer could open a retailer’s mini-program simply by scanning a QR code on a product in a store, then buy the item using the WeChat Pay mobile payment system.

Other uses include paying for gas, transferring money, playing games and ordering takeout food.

Given that WeChat claims 938 million active monthly users worldwide and 600 million WeChat Pay users in China, mini-programs offer companies the opportunity to reach large numbers of shoppers without requiring them to download a new app. That offsets the drawbacks: A mini-program must be hosted in the cloud, typically by a service provider, and the applets must be written in a proprietary WeChat programming language.


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