BEIJING: WeChat now boasts one million mini-programs that are helping to increase user engagement with the Tencent-owned messaging app and which are attracting the attention of brands keen to exploit commercial opportunities.

According to the South China Morning Post, the number of such programs – applications smaller than 10 megabytes that run instantly on WeChat’s interface without having to be downloaded separately – almost doubled in the first half of this year.

And data from, a third-party statistics platform, indicated that the proportion of users who return the next day to use the app had also almost doubled over a broadly similar time span, from 13.2% in November to 25.5% in June.

Gaming is proving particularly popular. More than a third of users play games on the platform, with, for example, the Jump Jump game attracting 400 million players in less than three days after it was made available on WeChat’s homepage.

Brands as varied as milk producer Mengniu Dairy and property developer Wanda, meanwhile, are exploring the shopping and advertising possibilities that mini-programs offer.

“You can have ad formats in there – it’s quite a premium spot,” Christian Solomon, Chief Digital Officer at Mediacom China, told WARC recently. (For more, read What’s new for media and retail in China.)

“It can be video, it can be pop-up, images you can click and then you can go directly into purchase on Jingdong or into a brand’s own boutique or a brand’s own WeChat store,” he explained.

By using these mini-programs, shoppers are able to shop on WeChat from product discovery to payment, without ever leaving the app.

“(WeChat) is promoting that pretty heavily, so they've opened up a whole lot of different ad formats that link into it,” Solomon continued.

“So, for example, in WeChat search, the top listing is a link into the mini-program. If your brand doesn't have a mini-program, then you won’t show up on the top.”

Sourced from South China Morning Post; additional content by WARC staff