Mini programs are an increasingly important growth driver for apps, functioning as an entry point for Chinese mobile users to access online services, according to a recent report on Chinese internet trends in the first half of the year.

Why it matters: These lightweight applications are becoming must-have features for mainstream apps. They offer a diverse range of functions without requiring users to download separate programs or leave the main app.

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

Details: Monthly active users (MAU) for Wechat mini programs reached 829 million in June, up 11.6% year on year compared with 743 million a year ago, according to a Quest Mobile report published on Tuesday.

  • Mini programs are an important channel for main apps, especially those offering high-frequency services like food delivery, according to the report.
  • Eleme’s main app had 45 million MAUs as of June, while its mini program on the Alipay app had 33 million MAUs, with just 1.65 million overlapping users. Meituan’s Wechat mini program meanwhile had 97 million MAUs in June, almost double the main app’s 54 million.
  • Mini programs offer a lightweight, convenient way to try out a limited version of a service, and are a crucial channel for apps to acquire new users who want to use the full range of services, the report said.
  • Lifestyle services was the most popular category among Wechat mini program users in June, followed by video, shopping, tools, and transportation. Lifestyle services and video also topped the charts for Alipay and Baidu mini programs.
  • Users of healthcare services surged more than nine-fold (up 841%) year on year due to the wide application of health codes. Online education, car-hailing, and rental services also saw users on Wechat mini programs more than doubled year on year in June.
  • China’s retail sales in June weakened 1.8% year on year, an improvement from the 20.5% year on year decline in February during the country-wide lockdown, though growth slowed on an annual basis from a 9.8% increase in June last year.
  • Online retail sales accounted for 25.2% of China’s total retail sales in June, up from 20% in June last year.

Context: First introduced by Wechat in 2017, mini programs have become ubiquitous on many of China’s biggest apps, including Tencent’s QQ, Baidu, Meituan, Alibaba’s Alipay, and Taobao, as well as Bytedance’s Jinri Toutiao and Douyin.

Emma Lee

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general. We are looking for stories related to tech and China. Reach her at lixin@technode.com.