WeChat “Mini-App” was first introduced in September 2016, boasting that the apps required “no installation, instant access and is use-as-you-go,” causing a revolution in the app market. Before it went viral in late 2017, the mini-apps technology had gotten little attention for years, and many believed there was no real marketable use for it. So what do mini-apps actually do and how can they be utilized in daily business? We may have the answers for you.
The Failed “Mini-App” Experiment
Zhang Xiaolong, WeChat project manager, dropped a bombshell when he announced the inauguration of “Mini-Apps.” Some speculators even anticipated that the “web app is going to replace the installation app soon after WeChat shows the market its worth.” But things did not go as well as everyone had expected, and criticisms emerged due to poor user experience, which included complaints like:
- Users were unable to execute heavy and complicated in-app tasks, rendering some fancy functions invalid.
- There was no app store to promote mini-apps.
- Big traffic flows but minimal user retention. It was difficult to get users to return because of the “no installation policy,” and users did not receive any pushes from Mini-Apps.
The concerns above did not make Mini-Apps a big hit, and some companies with popular applications returned to their original app developments and stopped updating their Mini-Apps platforms.
The Popularity Explosion
But WeChat never gave up on pushing the Mini-App to the next level, and one year later, the Mini-App returned better than ever.
On December 28th, 2017, an officially-released Mini-App game, Jump Jump (跳一跳), started a massive advertising campaign on WeChat’s starting page. This game requires almost no skill– the game requires the user to guide a question-mark-like jumper to successfully leap from one base to another, with the length and height of each leap controlled by press-and-holds on the phone screen. All the same, the game quickly went viral during the New Year of 2018 because of its simple but addictive design. In January, Jump Jump’s daily active users peaked at 0.17 billion, while at the same time, the bounce rate hit its lowest record at 48%. Even now, in May 2018, Jump Jump still occupies a position on the top 5 list, 5 months after its release.
With the game’s popularity also came the money. Nike spent more than $3 million to place its logo on a random base, where a link to the company’s homepage could be activated once the jumper landed. As a result, Nike gained more than 100 million daily active users to their website.
More Traffic Supports
The new version of WeChat, released on the same day as the game Jump Jump, was believed to be a major factor in funneling traffic to the Mini-Apps. The new version provides an option to access the four most-recently visited Mini-Apps via a slide-down menu on the homepage (chat log page). This solved the user complaint that there was “no significant entrance to Mini-Apps.” Since this update, the number of options that enable the audience to reach Mini-Apps has grown to four:
- Slide-down to unfold hidden option
- QR code
- Discover page
- Official account link
Should I Try Mini-Apps for My Business?
To answer this question, we would need to review again the main points of Mini-Apps –
It is a relatively cheaper solution to bring games to the market by lowering the technical barrier to newcomers.
Mini-App is known for being extremely simple, backed by its non-skill-required coding system. At the sacrifice of some advanced interactive user experience, it inspires creative thinkers to create games quicker than they could on installed applications.
It is a tool employed by WeChat to grow valuable traffic.
It’s plain to see WeChat’s ambition to encourage users to stay in one super app (WeChat) rather than switching back and forth among dozens of apps. It also helps reduce WeChat competition, since user traffic is joined together – rather than competing with WeChat, developers will adapt to the WeChat platform in order to gain more user share, which also recruits more users to WeChat.
Keeping these points in mind, we can recommend some businesses that we think are fit for breaking in to the Mini-Apps market –
Time-killing mini-games are fast-spreading among WeChat’s users, so don’t hesitate to bring up your ideas – it might be the next “Jump Jump.”
- Simple online-to-offline (O2O) apps
A low open rate (users open only when necessary) and a socialization aspect (users recommend to friends if helpful to daily life) are two characteristics of O2O apps. Such applications as OFO, a bike-sharing service provider, work well with Mini-Apps since only GPS positioning and WeChat Pay features are required.
- Apps with novelty and potential
The rising popularity of Mini-Apps has fueled people’s willingness to explore that avenue, with strong inclination to download the original apps if they find them interesting in WeChat. It’s a great opportunity to expose a new trial app to 1 billion WeChat users, at a lower development and marketing cost. It also works when foreign apps enter the Chinese market by building a simpler Chinese version.