How WeChat Mini Programs Help Offline Retail in China

Author: Man-Chung Cheung

September 13, 2017

Early this year, WeChat unveiled mini programs—lightweight apps that live within WeChat itself and let its users perform a number of actions without ever leaving the platform.

Although over 2,000 mini programs were available at the launch, the initial reaction to them has been lukewarm. However, mini programs seem to have gained traction among some retailers. Here are some ways retailers are using WeChat’s mini programs to drive offline traffic:

No. 1: Drive Offline Traffic by Cornering "Mini Programs Nearby" Search Results

WeChat now lets users discover mini programs based on location and other personal data, such as user age. Retailers can even bid for ad space, so when a user clicks on the “Mini Programs Nearby” button their mini program will show up in search results, potentially leading foot traffic into physical stores and driving offline conversions.

No. 2: Market Segmentation Through Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Data

The Peninsula Hotels chain recently launched a successful ecommerce mini program that also allowed guests to make offline purchases. By relying on market segmentation data gathered through WeChat’s CRM tool, Peninsula Hotels was able to target various segments with specific messages intended to spur purchases. Because users opt in to mini program messaging, consumers don’t feel brands have crossed a line in contacting them. Hotel guests were able to purchase not only goods like desserts and chocolate, but also services like spa treatments.

No. 3: Display Store Information and Discounts

One of the simplest ways mini programs can help physical stores is through the “store mini program” feature, which gives users basic information about a retail location, such as its operating hours, address and photos. Businesses can also add features like coupons to entice prospective customers to visit. While the feature does not rely heavily on online interaction with shoppers, it can provide a useful way to get on their radar.