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WeChat Mini Programs & 5 Useful Cases

WeChat is the power app in China. Anything can be done with WeChat. Recently the platform reached more than 1 billion monthly active users. To simplify life even further, in early 2017, Tencent came out with Mini Programs, and they have become a Chinese mobile sensation. Below is an overview of WeChat mini programs and some of the best case studies out there.

What are WeChat Mini Programs?

As digital marketing agency 31Ten puts it, “mini programs are ‘lite’ apps embedded in WeChat meant for disposable O2O interactions, at the fraction of the cost of a traditional app (20-40%)”. Basically, mini programs are like apps within WeChat, but that you don’t need to download, as they are already available and enabled within WeChat. We all have so many apps on our phone nowadays, so not having to download a new one is a truly a blessing. With the addition of mini programs, WeChat wanted to create its own ecosystem of apps that would replace native apps. Below is an example of bike-sharing platform Mobike, with the WeChat mini program on the left, and the native app on the right (ChinaChannel).

These mini programs have very good UX and are more simplistic in their design, with fewer pages and high-quality visuals. This is because mini programs are purpose-driven. You you them when you need them, leave the mini program and then come back to it later. This makes fewer steps and excellent design a must, and is also why the time to create a mini program is much shorter than that to create a native application.

Mini programs have a different “signature.” The standard square QR code is what is used to identify individuals or companies on WeChat. Mini programs look different, as they have a rounded QR code with the green mini program “logo” in the corner. The four dots and the green accent give it away as a mini program. This is an example of a mini program. This is actually the Tencent Demo for mini programs, so if you scan it, you can see the various functions you can have from standard buttons, to geolocalization, which is highly useful and used by developers when creating mini programs.


5 Most Useful Mini Programs

There are so, so many mini programs nowadays, and its quite hard to filter through all of them and identify the ones that can benefit you. So, below, I’ve compiled some of the ones that I have actually used and swear by. These are not necessarily the coolest in design, but they are definitely the most useful when it comes to daily life in China. Here they are, In no particular order. Enjoy!


1. Tencent Surveys 腾讯投票

This is such an underrated mini program!! If you want to create a poll or a short questionnaire, you can use this mini program and it will generate one for you. Super useful to organize events, answer quick questions, and gather quick statistics. There is a range of survey organization you can pick, and you can have multiple choice answers or a simple “yes” or “no” answer choice, depending on your preference. Scan the code below and see for yourself!

2.  Sleepy Sounds 小睡眠

If you have trouble falling to sleep at night, then this is the mini program you need. It essentially has a huge selection of noises and soundtrack to make you fall asleep. The ones shown above are cat’s purring and birds chirping. This is one of the top ranking mini programs, so check it out and sweet dreams!

3. Ofo 小黄车官方版

This is more self-explanatory one. If you need to get around Shanghai, the two main options you have are Ofo and Mobike. I prefer Ofo just because I found the registration process much simpler than with Mobike, and the locking/unlocking function to be more secure. But in all honesty, whatever floats your boat. They are pretty much the same. I’m a sucker for yellow, and seeing the color instantly brightens up my day, so maybe that’s also a reason for all I know.

Don’t bother downloading the app, just use the mini program and you’ll save space on your phone and time!

4. Kering 开云集团创新奢侈品实验室

This is a really cool mini program that Kering came out with last year. With more people paying attention to brands that emphasize CSR and are more respectful of the environment, Kering created this mini program that gained great fame. After imputing all the details of the material and origin of your clothing or accessories, you’ll see an environmental footprint that is generated. Using carbon emissions, air and water pollution and more, a monetary number is produced, that translate into a monetary number based on manufacturing, logistics, sourcing, and production.

Play around with the functions below. You’ll see it’s certainly very eye-opening.

5. Jump Jump 跳一跳

This is for those long bus or metro rides in the morning. If you don’t know what to do, play this game. It’s super addicting and it went viral recently due to the fun nature of the game and the number of people playing. All it consists of is pressing on your smartphone screen and making a little figure jump from one block to another. Super simple in concept, super addictive in the long run. See for yourself and jump, jump!


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How China is reinventing the concept of bike sharing

Have you noticed all those colored bikes appearing everywhere in large US and European cities these last months? If you live in China, you know what I’m talking about.

It has been 2 years now since this new sharing bike system has been launched in China. First in universities campuses, later in all big cities. The concept is simple: use an app that let you find the closest bike around you, ride and leave it where you want after use. No need to find a station to park it anymore. No more full stations. Park as closest as your destination is.

How can it be more convenient?

After a fight for over a year between at least 10 Chinese startups to conquer the market, only 2 succeeded. They became unicorns by raising billions thanks to giants Tencent, Didi Chuxing, Huawei or Alibaba. They are called Mobike (orange) or Ofo (yellow) and claim to get around 9 million daily active users.

What’s next

Now, they are facing a new challenge: expand to the rest of the world. Let’s have a closer look to what’s happening.

This new system of bike sharing is completely different to what already exists in US or European cities. New York City’s Citibike, London’s Boris Bike or Paris’s Vélib’ for instance, provide bikes to their citizens, but require them to pick up and let the bike in a station. The service is public, meaning that it takes longer to get improvement, or funding. Transition between new and former company managing bikes in Paris is a good example: it takes time, while Parisians can’t use the service.

What startups provide thanks to private financing is lighter bikes, cheaper fare and deposit, no subscription, and promotion. Even more important: useful data collection about users’ riding behavior.

Challenges to face

But they are facing 2 main problems: defected bikes and public space use. Many cities are afraid to face wrong bike parking, or worst case over flooding.

Bike floodind in the city of Seattle

In French cities Lille and Reims, Gobee Bike had to remove its bikes because of vandalism. In San Franscisco, Bluegogo has suspended its business after few months because of local political resistance. Even Amsterdam, the world bike-friendly city intends to ban rental bikes because of parking issues.

Vandalism against LimeBike in Seattle

To succeed, companies will need to insure an efficient bike sharing service and get agreements with each city about public space use.

In the end, those new markets are very challenging for Chinese startups (or local copycats 😉) because it seems that every city reacts in a different way towards the service.

Last but not least, it puts actual bicycle operation and financing into question.