A Meituan helmet hangs on the back of an electric bicycle in Shanghai on March 29, 2019. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

China’s food delivery and lifestyle service giant Meituan has introduced mini programs, allowing users to access various services without leaving the app, Chinese media reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: Meituan’s adoption of mini programs, lightweight applications with a diverse range of functions accessible from within its app, is relatively late in the game. However, mini-programs and similar applications are a key, must-have feature for mainstream apps.

  • Native mini-programs will help Meituan keep its 422 million users and 5.9 million merchants on its platform rather than navigating to other apps, such as WeChat, for certain tasks.
  • First pioneered by WeChat in 2017, mini-programs have been adopted by leading Chinese super apps, including Tencent’s QQ, Baidu, Alibaba’s Alipay, and Taobao, as well as Bytedance’s Jinri Toutiao and Douyin.
  • WeChat mini-programs have become a major source of traffic for many services in China with more than 2.3 million apps servicing upwards of 681 million active users in April this year, QuestMobile data showed.

Details: Meituan is piloting its mini-program feature with popular service categories, including tools like weather service Moji Weather and games.

  • Meituan has placed its mini-programs in a less obvious place in the app, differing from WeChat, which features them prominently.
  • Meituan mini-programs can be shared externally only to WeChat at present.
  • With only a few mini-programs launched, functionality is relatively limited.

Context: Tech companies are attaching more strategic importance to mini-programs as the features become popular among users.

  • Ant Financial fully integrated Alipay’s mini-program feature with microblogging platform Sina Weibo in September.
  • The number of WeChat mini-programs with more than 1 million active users doubled annually to 883 in the first half of this year, according to a report from QuestMobile.
  • The country’s more than 800 million netizens and the move toward digitalization are fueling the rise of mini-programs.
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Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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