Tencent rolled out on Tuesday a mini program-based shop builder tool Minishop on its super messaging app Wechat as the company accelerates its push into e-commerce.

Why it matters: Minishop is among Tencent’s latest efforts to build up its e-commerce product lines. Tencent’s foray into the e-commerce industry is positioning Wechat in direct competition with Alibaba, JD.com, and Pinduoduo.

  • Tencent is capitalizing on the popularity of Wechat mini programs, the lightweight applications that run within the super app, to set up its own online marketplaces.

Read more: WeChat mini programs: the future is e-commerce

Details: Minishop, or Weixin Xiaoshangdian, offers basic functions such as product listings, order management, payment, logistics, and after-sales service as well as built-in streaming features, according to a company statement (in Chinese).

  • Minishop is a free-to-use mini program that helps merchants create their own merchandising shops on Wechat. 
  • The feature supports more than 1,500 product categories, including smartphones, consumer electronics, apparel, home appliances, and pet goods.
  • There is no deposit required to open a store, a common practice for other e-commerce platforms including its predecessor Weixin Xiaodian as well as Alibaba’s Taobao. To build up the initial user group, the service is free and there are no development costs for now.
  • During the testing period, enterprises can apply for up to 50 stores and household businesses can register up to five stores. The service will open up to individuals in the future.
  • The new Wechat-based e-shop mini program will replace Weixin Xiaodian, which the company stopped updating on July 9 and will gradually phase out.
  • Minishop is a more online commerce-friendly alternative to Weixin Xiaodian. Its high vendor threshold and lack of flexibility gave rise to third-party software-as-a-service (Saas) solutions.
  • Minishop poses a threat to Weimob and Youzan, third-party Saas WeChat store solutions backed by Tencent and Baidu.

Context: Tencent, the backer of Pinduoduo and JD.com, has been taking aim at the online retail sector—rival Alibaba’s home turf—in recent years.

  • In April, Tencent launched mini-program Xiao’e Pinpin, a Pinduoduo counterpart that allows users to purchase products at lower prices by forming groups.

Correction: An earlier version of the story referee to Minishop by the incorrect name Westore, and did not make it clear that Minishop is a mini program store builder rather than a centralized store.

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.