Expected to make up 40% of all luxury spending by 2024, Chinese consumers are increasingly important to luxury brands at a time of major shifts in both the global industry and the China market. One trend that is gaining in popularity amongst the new shoppers is mini programs.

37% of luxury brands with active WeChat accounts introduced a mini program while a growing number has been using them for commerce, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China. Specifically, 17% of WeChat users utilize the platform’s estimated 580,000 mini programs, amounting to nearly 170 million daily active users. The mini programs serve as direct competitors to the iOS and Android App Stores and are aimed at turning the messaging app into an operating system of its own. As a result, brands are ditching the idea of standalone mobile apps, evidenced by just 3% of watch and jewelry brands launching a new mobile app between April 2017 and April 2018, while fashion brands did not launch any at all.

Additionally, 22% of brand mini programs enable some form of commerce. For example, luxury brands use mini programs for commerce in several key ways, including gift cards, pop-up shops, and full-time standalone stores. Multiple brands have adopted standard gift card mini program formats that allow users to purchase gift cards for specific items with WeChat Pay, which are sent to recipients who can redeem them within WeChat. Swarovski launched a group buying mini program for the 2018 Chinese New Year that allowed WeChat users to invite contacts and contribute money via WeChat Pay to collectively buy a gift, featuring special items for the Year of the Dog. Meanwhile, Audemars Piguet teamed up with JD.com to launch a WeChat pop-up mini program shop through the brand’s WeChat account. Although no JD.com branding is present on the shop, Audemars Piguet and JD.com’s CEOs teamed up to personally hand deliver the first watch ordered.

Though mini programs sound small, they pack a large punch. Not only do they provide flexibility in variety of features that can be presented to shoppers, they allow brands to personalize their offerings to their full potential, both to promote new items and enable commerce.

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