After launching its mini-apps function in January last year, China’s largest mobile messaging app WeChat remained resolute in its dedication to the operating system-like feature at its annual conference over the weekend.

According to data released at the conference by parent company Tencent, WeChat now has over 580,000 mini-apps on the platform, with 17% of WeChat users utilizing them daily. This amounts to around 170 million daily active users. Functional within WeChat, the mini-apps serve as direct competitors to the iOS and Android App Stores and are aimed at turning the messaging app into an operating system within itself.

While Tencent was eager to tout the growing popularity of the mini-apps, brand adoption of the feature is still low. L2’s Digital IQ Index: CPG China finds that only 3% of CPG brands currently offer mini-apps.

Two of them are baby formula makers: Wyeth and Mead Johnson. Both created pregnancy and birth apps that offer features like diet and exercise recommendations, baby care tips and tutorials, and audio advice from doctors. On Wyeth’s app, pregnant moms can even enter the number of weeks 
they have been pregnant and upload photos of their hospital reports in order to receive tailored content.

Mini-apps by luxury and beauty brands are also limited. Luxury brands that have adopted the feature include Longchamp, Swarovski, and Michael Kors. While Longchamp offers two mini-apps dedicated to e-commerce and photo-sharing, Michael Kors users it for its loyalty program. Meanwhile, Dior Beauty has also adopted two mini-apps: one for e-commerce and one for gift cards, which takes on the theme of upcoming holidays.

Interest in standalone mobile apps is slightly higher than mini-apps at the moment, but CPG brand adoption is still only 11%. If usage of the feature continues to grow within WeChat, it could become an attractive alternative to the iOS or Android App Stores for brands that want to utilize their existing fan base for a Chinese mobile app.

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