WeChat + Alibaba Mini Apps
If you have a strong connection to China, you already know the answer: WeChat. But to a lot of people living outside China, the name of the ubiquitous messaging application might be very unfamiliar. In fact, WeChat marketing has become shorthand for social media marketing in China. Let’s take a look at the biggest phenomenon in the Chinese market today, and see how you can leverage it to promote your own business and have Digital Pomegranate develop an app of your dreams.
What are Wechat Mini Apps?
They are considered as WeChat’s own “app within an app” with several benefits:
- instant loading (no download needed – eliminate this barrier to entry)
- ease of use (access to a large range of applications/services, like e-commerce, games, productivity, reading content, etc without leaving WeChat
- don’t take up memory on your phone
Capabilities to embed in a Mini Program
- WeChat Pay
- eCommerce features with WeChat JS SDK integration
- Live Streaming
- Interface with offline connected objects
- Social connections
- And much more
In January 2017 after the launch of Wechat Mini Programs by Tencent, a tech giant in China, WeChat turned into a “super APP” bundling features and capabilities into a single mobile native APP. In this case users never need to leave the WeChat application and have the experience of using numerous apps without downloading and managing them just as we do with native iOS or Android apps. This model meets users’ expectations and behaviours in a specific scenario showing tangible proof of efficiency that’s why other Chinese giants such as Alibaba, Baidu and Bytedance started progressively opening the doors for developers to create this type of technology on their platforms to offer similar user-friendly experience and help companies and individual vendors to acquire users.
A great example of a WeChat Mini-App is from Tesla which enables drivers to locate charging stations, schedule a test-drive and share their experiences about driving a Tesla car with others via WeChat.
Aside from new games and video streaming services that made the electric vehicle more fun, Tesla also added a QR code feature that makes car maintenance easier:
Tesla owners in China can now schedule a service appointment at a Tesla Service. Center that’s most convenient for them by scanning a QR code using their WeChat app.
Alibaba Mini apps
Alibaba has been, over the last few years, very focused on its e-commerce vertical, while Tencent has built a broader ecosystem of services.
As Alibaba diversified into more industries such as entertainment, healthcare and mobility, it needed to develop the ability to offer services beyond e-commerce to its users. And they did it in September 2018 with Taobao and Alipay Mini-programs, which look very identical to Wechat Mini-programs.
Just as WeChat uses its “Wallet” feature to drive traffic to companies in which Tencent had invested, such as VIP.com (唯品会) or Pinduoduo (拼多多), Taobao Mini-programs provide a simple link to plenty of applications invested or supported by Alibaba such as bike sharing platform Ofo, rental platform Zude (白租) or power bank rental platform Laidian (来电).
As China bounces back from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Starbucks customers can now order food and beverages through the newly launched Starbucks Now feature in Alibaba’s apps, including e-commerce platform Taobao, digital mapping and information provider Amap, local services app Koubei, and mobile payments app Alipay. These apps serve nearly 1 billion customers in China, the coffee chain’s largest and fastest-growing market. By activating Starbucks Now through any of the four apps, users can pre-order and pay for their Starbucks beverages and food online, and then pick them up in-person at most Starbucks stores across the Chinese mainland. Launched in May 2019, Starbucks Now was previously only available through the Starbucks China mobile app. More than 93% of Starbucks stores support the services as of 2019, according to the company’s announcement.
Tencent is an investment holding conglomerate with many, many subsidiaries. They include social networks, payment systems, media, entertainment, smartphones, e-commerce, property, advertising, artificial intelligence and more. →