Ten­cent’s Mini Pro­grams has po­ten­tial to dis­place App Store

New Straits Times - - BUSINESS -

Inc’s big­gest com­peti­tor in China isn’t Xiaomi Corp or Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co. It’s Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd.

In­dus­try ob­servers have known for a while that Ten­cent’s WeChat, in­clud­ing its Mini Pro­grams plat­form, has the po­ten­tial to dis­place the App Store. And its OS-ag­nos­tic na­ture means that users can eas­ily swap from de­vice to de­vice, even across op­er­at­ing sys­tems.

Now the com­pany seems set on build­ing out the long tail, max­imis­ing value be­yond main­stream usage of its core prod­ucts.

At its an­nual WeChat con­fer­ence re­cently, Ten­cent ex­ec­u­tives took the stage to out­line their busi­ness and de­vel­op­ment plans. On the agenda was its strat­egy for build­ing out Mini Pro­grams — a ser­vice that al­lows third-party de­vel­op­ers to run scaled-down apps on top of WeChat’s in­stant messenger.

Niche apps within WeChat, such as those used by a par­ent­teacher group or neigh­bour­hood gro­cery store, ac­counted more than half of to­tal Mini Pro­grams traf­fic, Daiwa Cap­i­tal Mar­kets an­a­lysts John Choi, Can­dis Chan and Robin Leung wrote in a note after the event in Guangzhou.

Be­ing able to find these apps was a key is­sue, so Ten­cent was work­ing on ways to im­prove this, the an­a­lysts wrote. The com­pany is cre­at­ing de­vel­oper and man­age­ment tools to make it eas­ier to build these apps, and will ramp up mon­eti­sa­tion of Mini Pro­grams.

“Just build a good Mini Pro­gram, and we’ll do the rest,” said Ten­cent ex­ec­u­tives.

With WeChat it­self near­ing peak pen­e­tra­tion with 1.1 bil­lion monthly ac­tive users, Ten­cent needs to go deeper to keep grow­ing. It’s nailed the big-ticket items — chat, pay, and on­line-toof­fline ser­vices — so now it must hunt for niches.

What makes Ten­cent’s Mini Pro­grams even more pow­er­ful is the fact that ev­ery­body in China uses WeChat, and it seam­lessly in­te­grates with the core func­tions of the Ten­cent messenger.

The key to lev­er­ag­ing this long tail will be Ten­cent’s re­cent shift to­ward in­dus­trial and en­ter­prise use.

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