The debate whether APP is worth the investment has always been there. The typical argument lies in the competition against other APPs and no major alternative in the market. However, Chinese brand marketers face a different decision.
Wechat launched a new function called “Mini Program” in Jan and WeChat announced a new feature called “store mini-app” in its latest efforts to promote the application of its mini program. The new function will promote the formation of a benign business path in which official account owners publish store information on WeChat while users buy services or goods offline guided by the feature.
Before this critical move, Wechat has long split public account into subscription account and service account, so that customer service oriented brand is able to develop their own API and customize the function for engagements such as appointment booking and order tracking. However, limits of service account are quite clear – user is allowed to publish content once a week, while the engagement is quite static.
The benefits for the users are easy to spot: it saves time and efforts to download another one of thousands of APP, go through the registration process and familiarise yourself to the APP, then after two weeks, you can't even remember what's the APP for.
For the brands, it is much cheaper to develop a Mini Program within Wechat framework than an APP from the scratch. For the SMEs and service providers who have frequent engagement with audience, Mini Program is not only a more affordable option but also an option that removes an extra step for user to download. More importantly, it is integrated with Wechat pay, therefore, one-click to complete the payment instead of saving the credit card information on the APP.
Looking at the top 10 Mini Program list, more than half ranking in the first 20 are related to lifestyle, such as O2O bike renting, Didi Chuxing (Chinese Uber), Tencent video, McDonald’s and C-trip flight booking.
Mini Program hasn’t replaced APP yet, not yet. The marketers are not too concerned at this stage. Mini Program is designed to serve all the brands, however, the fundamental objective is to consolidate Tencent and Wechat’s stickiness. The brand prefers owning the confidential user stats and monitoring the their behavior and performance to getting restricted by Wechat rules and regulations. However Mini Program is flexible for the developer side, it still largely depends how much freedom Tencent wants to give the brand.
APPs are also seeking for new angles to break the barrier of downloading and encourage the constant engagement. Gucci travel APP releases a new function and showcases another possibility to succeed on APP. The new function is named “Gucci Places,” which offers customers and travellers alike the chance to take a close look at some of the global destinations that have left their mark on the this classic brand.
Facing the fierce competition, APP is harder and harder to attract new users without massive marketing spend. For those who first enter the Chinese social media territory, the simple subscription account is a better start which can publishes one post a day and easily switch to service account later on. The community management can be done like Facebook or Instagram.