What is a Wechat Mini Program? The future of apps within apps.

This article outlines the features, the pros, and cons and the steps of using WeChat Mini Program by Tencent. It was introduced in 2017 and it crossed the milestone of more than 1 million mini programs in 2018. As a comparison, the first-generation iPhone was released in 2007 and it has over 2 millions iOS applications as of 2018.

What is a WeChat Mini Program?

WeChat Mini Program is an application within WeChat app. It acts like a lightweight app accessible through the WeChat app. When you need to order food in a fast-food chain, call a cab, or buy a train ticket in China, you can do so through mini programs instead of downloading individual apps of MacDonald, Didi Chuxing or train company.


What a WeChat Mini Program is not?

  • It is not a new app. No downloads or installations of apps through Apple App Store, Google Play or other app stores are required.
  • Mini programs are not owned or developed by Tencent. Merchants and companies develop their own mini programs and submit to Tencent for approval. Once approved, users can start using their mini programs in the WeChat app.
  • A mini program is not like another app. As the word mini implies, there are limitations to a mini program compared to a native app. Whether or not to develop a mini program, a native app or both will depend on your channel and marketing strategy. More explanations with examples below!


How to use WeChat Mini Program?

There’s no better way to understand it than using a mini program itself steps by steps. The case study below will go through the steps, pros, cons, and suggestions for using a mini program.


Step #1:

How to find WeChat Mini Programs


WeChat Mini Program logo

There are 2 ways to find a mini program:

  1. In WeChat, click on “Discover” > “Mini Programs” > Search “Mini Programs”. There are also archives of pinned and recently used mini programs.
  2. Scan a QR code using your WeChat app. There are tonnes of QR code everywhere in China allowing you to either open a webpage or a mini program within the app.

This step is essentially the same as finding other apps.

In most fast-food chains and certain restaurants in China, users will be able to find a QR code on every table. As the QR code is unique for each branch and each table, they will be surprised to find that the mini programs have already identified which branch they are in and which table they are seating at.



Step #2:

Loading page


WeChat Mini Program Loading Page

Once users click on the mini program, they will most likely be redirected to a loading page or launch screen. A loading page tells the users that the mini program is loading and lowers the risk of users leaving your mini program. The same applies to other apps.

There is a maximum size of 10 MB for all mini programs. As such, there are limitations on features and functionality you can build on a mini program.

As a rule of thumb, build your mini program to serve a clear purpose, for example, either for reservation and ordering, ticket booking or e-commerce. It should target the infrequent users without motivation to download your native app yet and subsequently convert them into frequent users.

Unlike “official account” or 公众号, mini programs does not allow push notifications. You will still need an official account to keep users engaged with your content strategy.


Step #3:

WeChat Mini Program main menu/ landing page


WeChat Mini Program Main Menu/ Landing Page

After loading page, users will be directed to the landing page. The landing page shows all the features and main menu of the mini program, KFC China in this example:

  • Pin: You are allowed to pin the mini program for use anytime. It is on the top right by default on every mini program screens.
  • Close: Close the mini program. It is on the top right by default on every mini program screens.
  • Carousel slider: You can find all the important announcements and promotions here. In this example, KFC China wants users to download its native app. Users will be rewarded with free food vouchers for downloading its app.
  • Order now: Click to start ordering.
  • Membership bar-code
  • Wallet/ vouchers
  • My orders
  • Promotions: Feature time-limited promotions
  • More services such as delivery and membership


Step #4:

Order page


WeChat Mini Program KFC Order Page

Under the order page, users will need to specify the KFC branch you are in. However, with location service enabled, the mini program will be able to automatically detect the branch.

If the users come to this page through scanning the QR code at the branch, there’s also no need to specify the branch as the QR code is unique.

Next, users will need to choose between:

  • “Order now and collect food after payment” vs “reserve food for collection later”
  • Dine in vs take away

The pros of the mini program with this step are:

  • Eliminate digital kiosk: physical hardware that is prone to wear and tear and not environmental-friendly are no longer needed.
  • Combine food delivery app, reservation platform, ordering platform in one mini program
  • Cashless: Payment will be made in-app through WeChat Pay.
  • Labor-saving with automation of these processes

Step #5:

Menu selection, customization, and up-selling

Users can proceed to select the food and customize the side dishes and beverages. Merchants will have the chance to up-sell during the confirmation page.


WeChat Mini Program KFC menu selection
WeChat Mini Program KFC menu customization


Step #6:

WeChat Mini Program confirmation and payment page


WeChat Mini Program Payment

Before proceeding to pay, users will just need to specify their mobile phone number. This is also their last chance to indicate any special requests such as no ice or no onion.

Once done, users can collect their KFC when their queue number is flashed on the collection point.

For more information on developing a WeChat Mini Program, click here.