We compared popular apps in China C-trip, Ele.me and KFC with their WeChat mini program counterparts with participants, ranking information architecture and exploring opinions to see which users preferred to use and why.
Hotel, flight and train booking platform.
The mini program information architecture was seen as chaotic.
Missing search function at top of the landing page.
Disliked promotional banner at top of the page.
If they have already decided on a travel destination, they might be more open to using the mini program to book train/plane tickets or a hotel.
The native app is better organized with core functions divided into 3 sections; hotel, ticket booking, tourism.
Preferred the visual style of the booking section in the app.
Liked travel recommendations and discounted tickets sections on the app.
Disliked event promotions.
Preferred when making larger decisions and payments.
Using the C-trip native app was mostly preferred due to more options, clearer information architecture and the ability to search, explore and read options easier.
C-trip simplified the mini program to the point that it was missing key functions users had become accustomed to.
“I prefer the native app, as I can see the customer service icon which makes it feel more reliable.”
“The app has a notification function, which I think is useful when I want to book a trip”
Restaurant and food delivery service.
Using the Ele.me native app was preferred due to more in-depth functions and previously formed strong habits.
Ele.me seems to have duplicated their native app as much as possible but without core functions that users had become accustomed to.
“I will always open Ele.me (native app) because for me its necessary to have the full functions”
“The mini program is missing the most significant section, food categories. So I would choose the native app.”
Self-service order and home delivery. (we tested the self-service mini program against the full-featured app)
- Participants were impressed by how simple, clear and straightforward the mini program was.
- The banner on the top of the page is disliked.
- Links into another mini program for food delivery.
(self-service & home delivery)
- Irrelevant/distracting membership, coupons, and games content.
- Disliked the K-Music & games promotions.
Using the KFC mini program was preferred because it has the required functions to execute tasks and is easier to use.
“I would definitely use the mini program because the only purpose for me is to order food quickly. The native app is too complex.”
KFC succeeded in creating a mini program experience that has a better user experience than their mobile app. They do this by working with the limitations of WeChat and breaking up the apps core functions into two mini programs. One for self-service ordering in-store (which we tested) and another for home delivery.
From looking at these comparisons, we can draw some conclusions when it comes to omnichannel strategies of apps launching mini programs.
The needs of users don’t change, but behaviours do. The way users engage with mini programs and native apps are not the same. Participants showed they had predefined expectations for certain digital experiences depending on their complexities.
WeChat mini programs have an advantage when the functions are simple, easy to use and they make life's daily tasks more convenient. They should be fast to load, straight-forward and not take too much of the users time.
Native mobile apps are still preferred when users need more time is to read, explore options, make decisions and use more complex functions.
“If I don’t need more functions, I think it’s more convenient to use a mini app… I don’t need to waste time downloading (native) apps”