What is a mini app? Learn why marketers should be paying attention

If your company doesn’t sell apps as a product and you don’t plan to develop your own for the foreseeable future, then you probably don’t need to spend a lot of time and money developing apps.

Envisioning, developing, releasing, and promoting an app is a big undertaking for a small business. If you have that much time, we recommend that you start working on optimizing your website for mobile and rolling out a mobile email strategy to ensure that your visibility and ROI (return on investment) increase.

But if you’re a marketer working for an IT startup, agency, or technology company and you think an app could help your business, consider modern, cost-effective development methods. Worth a try.

mini app

As of 2020, some technology companies have already started investing in “mini apps.” If this movement spreads, it may be possible to try out the effect with a compact app as a starting point.

First of all, it was relatively recently in 2017 that mini-apps began to be adopted by various major social networking sites in China . Earlier in the same year, Tencent, the developer of WeChat, announced the release of “WeChat mini-programs” .

Following the success of WeChat and others, recently, Western technology companies such as Apple and Snapchat are also paying attention to mini-apps. Both companies have started developing and releasing mini-apps similar to those offered on WeChat.

So, what exactly are mini-apps, and what are their benefits for the companies that release them? From here, we’ll take a look at some of the mini-app platforms and specifically introduce the mobile experiences each company provides.


Mini app platform example

WeChat mini-program

A 2017 TechCrunch article describes mini-programs as basic functional apps that can be accessed via WeChat. By the way, among technical writers, the term “mini-app” is the mainstream, but the reason why WeChat calls it “mini-program” is because Tencent is concerned about infringing the trademark rights of Apple and Google, and instead uses the term “app  . Because I gave up putting words.

To give you a concrete image, below is a screenshot of accessing the WeChat mini-program. Although the screen is in Chinese, you can see that each program is provided by another company.

WeChat mini-program

For example, by tapping on Tesla’s mini-program, you can access the following screen within the WeChat app. Tesla mini-programs let you find car charging stations and book a test drive.

Users can also keep in touch with friends while getting information about the company through mini-programs such as Tesla. You can do both at the same time by just opening one app called WeChat. For companies such as Tesla, getting content to potential audiences and customers who are WeChat users can increase awareness.

WeChat mini-programs are currently only available on the original Chinese app Wechat. If you want to raise awareness based on this app, first apply for a mini-program account . Note that you’ll need a developer to create mini-programs, which is a bit tricky, according to a review of mini-programs on WalktheChat .

That article, posted in 2019 , states that mini-programs must be developed in a specific language (a JavaScript framework developed by Tencent), and that developers create WXML and WXSS instead of traditional HTML and CSS. and states that all development work should utilize this framework.

Snap Minis

Announced in 2020 , Snap Minis are mini apps provided by each company within the Snapchat app. To use Snap Minis, open a chat with a friend or group. Then tap the rocket icon to display a number of mini apps. You can also search on this screen. A wide variety of mini-apps are provided by each company, such as games, schedule management, and meditation.

Snap Minis

By tapping a mini app, you can use functions such as playing meditation guidance for a mini app called Headspace, for example. What’s more, you can also share your in-app experience with your Snapchat contacts, such as a record of the guidance you played, or a play score for mini-game games.

Snap Minis

While Tesla’s WeChat mini-program aimed to raise awareness of the car brand and share the location of each physical store, Snap Minis go one step further and encourage audiences to not just use We provide content that can be shared by users of Snap Minis are an ideal choice for tech marketers and digital brands who want their Snapchat audience to actively share their branded content.

According to Snapchat, some development work is required to release the Snap Minis mini app, but it is unknown whether Snapchat or the partner company is mainly responsible for that work. However, the company website states that Snap Minis can be easily developed using HTML5 code.It is written.

It is now mandatory for companies wishing to offer Snap Minis to apply to join the Early Access Program . When applying, you will need to provide your contact information and explain your Mini App concept.

Apple App Clips

Currently, App Clips are only available to companies that build App Store apps. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting example of a mini app and should be checked out, especially by companies that already offer apps.

App Clips, released with the 2020 iPhone iOS 14 update, provide a subset of the functionality of full apps (regular full apps) published on the App Store . Users can use App Clips by scanning a QR code, hovering near an NFC tag placed by the provider, visiting the company’s website, or tapping a dedicated link. You can also use App Clips in apps like Apple’s iMessage and Maps.

Apple App Clips

For example, when a user discusses or searches for something related to the App Clips company, they see a call-to-action (CTA) prompting them to open the App Clips, without having to download the full app. You can use some of the basic functions of the app from .

For example, if you’re having a text message conversation with a friend about a restaurant chain that offers an app, you’ll see a CTA inviting them to open that restaurant’s App Clips and view their menu. Open App Clips to perform simple tasks such as scanning menus or making reservations. You can also download the full app from the App Store by tapping the App Clips CTA.

For companies concerned about app development, the benefits of App Clips may not be felt, but for IT startups and technology companies, keep an eye on it. In addition to getting people who haven’t downloaded the full app to try out features, App Clips’ call-to-action option lets you drive by a store, message a friend about a product, or use Maps You can also make your app known to users who search for local businesses on . Now you can literally promote your app where your audience is.

Important points of mini apps that marketers should keep in mind

Companies that can participate in mini app programs such as Apple and Snapchat are currently limited, making it difficult for small and medium-sized companies to enter, but mini apps will become a convenient marketing tool for many companies in the future. As mini apps evolve and spread in the future, marketers need to pay attention to the following points.

1. The more companies that promote digital transformation, the more they can make use of mini-apps as a business opportunity.

First, they may need to introduce digital tools and online stores to improve the overall experience they are providing. For example, Tesla originally provided functions for searching car charging stations and booking test drives on its website, so developers could have easily applied it to build mini-apps.

Also, the fact that WeChat had a certain audience interested in technology, cars, and Tesla itself was a deciding factor in building a mini-app. Mini-apps allow your audience to explore Tesla products and services without leaving the WeChat app.

Offering mini-apps requires a strong digital presence and the ability to run your business online, which may still be out of reach for many small businesses. This is even more true in areas where mini apps have just appeared. However, as the use of apps continues to grow around the world, it is highly likely that eventually the environment will become more conducive to adopting this strategy.

2. Mini-apps that do not benefit the platform will not be adopted

Mini-apps are similar in purpose to website collaboration and co-branding projects . Big companies rarely work with competitors’ tools or partner with companies whose target audiences don’t overlap . The concept is the same for mini apps.

Ultimately, in order for major app companies to host mini apps, the audience they are aiming to raise awareness of must be similar, and they must be able to provide features that extend the usage time of the platform app. not. That’s why companies such as Snapchat and WeChat are making it mandatory to apply for participation in the program, rather than unconditionally allowing each company to provide mini-apps.

3. Preparing to create a mini app

In some cases, it may be possible to develop mini-apps without having an in-house developer. With WeChat, if you apply and pay a fee, the company will take care of building and releasing mini-programs for you.

Some platforms make it easy to deploy mini-apps, but with Apple, for example, the requirement is that the app has already been developed. Regarding Snap Minis , the requirements for mini app development have not been clarified (at the time of publication of this article).

4. Sometimes you can’t become a mini app partner

The use of mini-apps may certainly attract opportunities, but it may not be the best option depending on the company’s situation and strategy. If you’re a small business marketer, this is especially important.

As mentioned above, major mini-app hosting platforms are looking for partners who can provide tools and experiences that extend the time spent on the platform apps themselves. There are also cases where we support mini-app building for small brands, but the brand also needs to spend a reasonable amount of time and money to ensure that there are no problems with the performance of the mini-apps it provides.

I’m sure there are some of you who think that the hurdles are too high, but don’t worry. The number of companies that can release mini-apps is limited, but at this time it is not necessary to use mini-apps. Even if none of these methods fit your strategy, there are plenty of ways to build awareness on mobile and online without using an app.

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