The Chinese multimedia company Tencent has announced via WeChat that it will be launching a new mini program on the platform called “Brand Discovery”, which will replace Tencent Huiju. Tencent is best known among young people for its video games but is also a news outlet, TV production company, and operates the instant messaging service WeChat.
Tencent has been trying to gain a foothold in e-commerce since 2005. Since then it has launched the platforms PaiPai.com, QQ mall, and QQ shopping, as well as investing in multiple other e-commerce platforms including JD.com and Pinduoduo. Two years ago Tencent launched its e-commerce WeChat mini program, Tencent Huiju, but results were lukewarm. It gained a reputation as a program mainly useful for finding discount vouchers, rather than making purchases and many users maintained their loyalty to the e-commerce giants JD and Tmall.
Mini-programs are a feature of WeChat equivalent to “sub-applications of the WeChat ecosystem” that allow brands to set up their own miniature site within the messaging app. In this way, WeChat functions almost like an internet browser as users may search information or products via the WeChat app. Users can sign up to particular mini programs much like a subscription account, which digital influencers have utilised as way to drive engagement with their personal brands.
The new Brand Discovery program represents a shift in strategy compared to traditional e-commerce platforms. Instead of offering a closed-loop system in which users can search, browse, and purchase products all without leaving the Tencent mini-program, the new program will focus on information aggregation, serving as a home base where users can search for other mini programs and receive recommendations. Users interested in further browsing or purchasing a particular brand’s products will be redirected to the relevant mini program of that brand or shopping site.
CEO of Tencent, Ma Huateng, has implied that Tencent are keen to capitalise on the success of short-form video content in future, perhaps using it to drive engagement with and traffic towards recommended brands on the Brand Discovery mini program.