Humphrey Ho
Sep 1, 2022

Mini Programs is Western brands' solution to China's lockdown

In China, this WeChat feature accounts for 25-40% of ecommerce brands’ transactions.


China may be moving in and out of lockdown, but the changes to consumer expectations will be irreversible. Western brands need to adapt to attract the elusive Chinese market, forecasted to reach USD $12.7 trillion value by 2030. How? An app inside an app known as Mini Programs. 

Raising the bar for ecommerce

Existing within social apps’ ecosystems like WeChat to enhance experience for information, services, ecommerce, and engagement, and provide users with a full-circle shopping experience in a single location, Mini Programs is a digital experience that all advertisers need to attract, retain and repeat purchases today. Often, brands use Mini Program exclusives. If you’re not familiar, it’s like Macy’s Edition or exclusive duty-free travel retail versus regular retail where products are only available through the Mini Program app to encourage consumers to make it their preferred shopping experience.

In China, this WeChat feature accounts for 25-40% of e-commerce brands’ transactions depending on the industry, totalling USD $250 billion in revenue. Translation? To reach the Chinese consumer, traditional ecommerce websites alone are not good enough. 

Bringing the consumer experience home through VR/AR

The use of VR/AR to enhance both the virtual and physical world is tremendously important when highlighting specific product details, and for identifying and connecting consumers’ needs to their aspirations through experiences. By providing the opportunity to try products on, see how furniture will look in their house, or experience a car show, all without leaving home, consumers are able to see, touch, hear, feel, and fall in love with brands’ products. All this, while also making more informed purchases and reducing the number of returns. For Chinese consumers in lockdown, this has become their preferred past-time that allows them to experience the world online when they are unable to offline.

Fashion brands can also participate in virtual collaborations and fashion shows. When including VR/AR in your Mini Programs, not only does it add to consumers’ experience, but it also acts as an entry point into the metaverse. For example, with every high-value luxury item purchased like the Hermes Kelly bag, an NFT luxury bag can be gifted.

For the fashionista on a budget, the NFT can be purchased for a fraction of the physical product cost by attaching it to their user IDs. Both individuals experience the brand and can become loyal customers. What about brands who provide a service? Travel brands can create Mini Programs through VR that allow consumers to experience the headspace that traditionally only travel can provide. For example, consumers would be able to zipline across the Grand Canyon to highlight Utah and enjoy the breathtaking views.  

The use of VR/AR to drive experiences creates brand resonance to establish need and encourage the demographic down the purchasing funnel from start to finish. In a retail environment where ecommerce is ubiquitous and consumers can buy the same item across ten different providers, Mini Programs become particularly important in driving exclusive SKUs. And there you have it, the answer to how brands can reach Chinese consumers. 

Humphrey Ho is managing director of Hylink USA.

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