The MAUs of WeChat, Alipay, and Baidu’s mini programs now add up to more than 1 billion

A novel idea in 2017, mini programs now account for the vast majority of traffic for some apps.

A Boy playing WeChat Mini Porgram-based game. Image credit to 123rf.com.cn.

When WeChat introduced mini programs in 2017, it was a novel idea. The concept has taken root and is now a major source of traffic for many services and an effective way to access the massive user bases of China’s existing super apps.

Tencent’s WeChat is the most popular super app of them all in China, with 947 million monthly active users (MAUs) in April, according to data released by market research firm QuestMobile on Tuesday.

The report further breaks down that mini programs in WeChat had 681 million MAUs in that month, indicating that more than 70% of WeChat’s users tapped on at least one mini program icon in that period.

Mini programs that sit within a super app spare individuals the effort to download yet another standalone app. Introducing them was good for WeChat too, because it meant users had even more reason to stay inside the application.

According to QuestMobile’s findings, Ctrip-backed Tongcheng Travel saw as much as 97.2% of its users access its listings via WeChat mini program in April. Rather than downloading the full Tongcheng Travel app, the vast majority of its users just searched via Tongcheng’s WeChat mini program.

In the same month, ticketing platform Maoyan’s mini program accounted for 88.9% of its traffic, while secondhand housing platform Beike found 77.4% of its users via its WeChat mini app.

Many companies now recognize that the major apps with the most active user base are essential to supporting their business.

In all, 72% of Mobike’s traffic in April and 62.7% of Meituan’s was generated via WeChat mini programs said QuestMobile. That’s despite efforts by Meituan to pull users into its own app. Mobike was acquired by Meituan in April 2018, and some of its bicycles can only be unlocked by using Meituan’s standalone app.

WeChat now hosts 2.3 million mini programs, according to QuestMobile.

Alipay, which had 647 million MAUs in April, also hosts mini programs. These had 401 million MAU in April. They are similarly effective as the mini programs on WeChat. For bike-sharing and ride-hailing platform Hello Chuxing, 69.8% of users used its service through the corresponding Alipay mini program. Even Taobao, which was a standalone app much earlier than Alipay, serves 15.7% of its users through a mini program on the payment platform.

Alipay, which introduced mini programs in September 2018, is now home to more than 200,000 on its platform.

The third member of China’s tech triumvirate, Baidu, saw 115 million of its 469 million MAUs in April use at least one mini program on the company’s flagship app. Baidu welcomed its first mini program in July 2018 and now hosts more than 100,000 mini programs.