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Should I build an e-commerce App or WeChat Mini Program in China? (Part two)

Should I build an e-commerce App or WeChat Mini Program in China? (Part two)

This article is a continuation from Part one, which summarized where WeChat Mini Programs (MPs) perform better and where Apps perform better. In Part two, we look at some quick rules of thumb and what our clients outside of the traditional retail industry have chosen to do. (Note: this information is always rapidly evolving so it is correct as of the time of this blog post).

Where it’s tied:



  • WeChat MPs smoothly integrate with WeChat Payments to allow for a seamless payment process. However it doesn’t support Alipay, the most popular payment method in China, and other mobile payment methods including UnionPay, Visa, Mastercard (unless these cards are bound to WeChat Pay), Apple Pay and more.

  • There are also limitations on the payment amount in WeChat (3,000rmb for a single virtual payment, 50,000rmb for physical goods payment per day) which limits the ability to place large value orders (e.g. deposits for limited-edition cars in a special event). 

  • On the other hand, Apps can integrate with multiple payment gateways in China and easily accept various payment methods from WeChat Pay to Alipay to UnionPay and more.


It is difficult to make generalizations by industry on which to choose, but rather consider what is the use case and positioning for the WeChat MP and App. A few quick consideration factors:


  • If the decision process is lengthy (e.g. e-commerce for a property selling site) → App

  • If it’s a quick decision and purchase process (e.g. e-commerce for food and beverage) → WeChat MP

  • If you’re just testing a concept or new business model (e.g. a hotel testing out new e-commerce for gym bookings) → WeChat MP is much lower cost for experimentation

  • If you rely on virality and social sharing (e.g. an e-commerce model with heavy group buying / group discounts) → WeChat MP

  • If you rely on a closed community with high frequency interaction (e.g. e-commerce for hardcore fans of your brand, limited edition releases, lucky draws) → App

  • If you rely on incredible user interaction experience such as 3D, animation, AR/VR and there are many of these interactions → App


Given all of the above context, what path did our clients follow?


For the automotive manufacturer moving to a D2C business model, they decided to build both a WeChat MP and an App for e-commerce but with different focus points and features. The WeChat MP focuses on the customer acquisition stage of the journey, including campaigns, Professionally Generated Content (PGC), simple car details and configuration, test drive, and quick deposit. The App allows for more interactive car product details such as AR/VR and “testing” connected vehicle features, as well as comprehensive tracking of order, viewing its journey through the factory and on the way to the customer. It also allows for seamless connection to car ownership when the car arrives, such as connected car controls, accessories and service package e-commerce, and loyalty points malls. Both the WeChat MP and App have one account for customers, so customers can move seamlessly from the WeChat MP to the App.


For the agricultural feed provider, we found their customers (farmers) used a wide variety of mobile devices, were less digitally savvy and less likely to download new apps, and more social. We recommended starting with a WeChat MP for e-commerce, incorporating value-add features such as weather and crop demand information, and lots of shareable content to incentivize farmers to bring other farmers to the platform. The value-added features help to increase engagement, frequency of use, and brand image as a business companion to help farmers increase their yield.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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