The Rise of Mini-programmes and Super Apps

Super Apps and mini-programmes are gaining popularity in the past two years, and the growth of mini-programmes has been directly linked to the rise of Super Apps and the mobile-first phenomenon in China.

What is a Super App?

Super App is an app that holds a large variety of services in one place. The services don’t have to belong to the same category, and they can be as diverse as from paying utility bills to hiring a nanny. Users have the convenience to access all services without the need to leave the app. All tasks done – all in one app.

What is a mini-programme?

Mini-programme is an app-like platform that exists within the super apps. You can consider it as a light-version of apps, normally smaller than 10 megabytes. No downloading required, mini-programmes can be run instantly on the main app’s interface.

The Rise of Mini-programmes in China

In 2013, Baidu first introduced the concept of light app to the market. In the next few years, super apps like WeChat, Alipay and Baidu sprung up and reshaped the whole mobile internet ecosystem. Super apps tap into almost everything we do in our daily life, and it has a large and highly engaged user base.

The birth of mini-programmes is given by the time that we’re in where html5 and storage technology are getting mature, and the 5G era is approaching.

Also, apps have been around for as long as smartphones are in use, app developers find it increasingly hard to acquire new users. At the same time, users find apps taking too much space on their mobile.

Mini-programmes then enter into the scene creating a new ecosystem and battleground for super apps.

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How are the super app mini-programmes performing in China?

The number of mini-programmes has reached millions by June 2019. The number one super app Wechat has over 2.36 millions mini-programmes, following by Alipay and Baidu with rapidly increasing numbers of mini-programmes.


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2.36 Millions+


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In terms of users, WeChat is taking the lead. It has over 800 millions cumulative users while Alipay has reached 650 millions and Baidu are accelerating as well.

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A look at WeChat

WeChat dubbed the #1 super app in China, is becoming a do-everything operating system. Initially WeChat is an instant messaging app launched by a Chinese tech giant Tencent in 2011. And now it has become the app so deeply weaved into people’s daily life. It’s used for social, payment, shopping, transportation, entertainment and more.

For many users, the app takes care of all that’s needed for a day. For illustration purpose, a scenario of how our fictional character Don goes through his day using one super app to fulfil on his needs.

Morning: Work. Using mini-programme (instead of transportation card) to scan the QR code for public transportation, then payment is made within WeChat.

Afternoon: Lunch. While waiting for his order, he has his utility bill payment done on the app. He also arranges flower delivery for his girlfriend’s birthday.

Evening: Birthday dinner. Using the app to book a table at a posh restaurant for the celebration. He’s taking pictures for social posting on WeChat.

Mini-programmes by vertical

Amongst the top 100 mini-programmes in WeChat by vertical, E-commerce is the most popular, standing at 20%, followed by food delivery, convenient life, travelling, tools and games.

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Mini-Programme ecosystem gives rise to ample possibilities to businesses

The whole evolution of mini-programmes has created many players from many different categories. Using the WeChat mini-programme ecosystem as a demonstration, we see eight main categories of players:

  1. the ‘stores’ indexing mini-programmes
  2. the SaaS (Software as a Service) allowing to generate a mini-programmes
  3. the service providers building custom code
  4. the BaaS (Back-end as a Service) offering a simple solution to mini-programme developers
  5. the analytics tools
  6. the specialized news platforms
  7. the discussion boards
  8. the development toolkits
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Because of the advancement of technology, most businesses no longer need to launch an App. And mini-programmes have really redefined how the game is played in business and how users are acquired.


即速应用2019年小程序行业年中增长研究报告 (Jisu app’s mid-year growth report for mini-program industry in 2019)

公开资料整理与即速应用后台测算 (The MiniTracker’s mini-program monitoring database)

The WeChat mini programs ecosystem in one map. technode, 12 Jan 2018.