Baidu’s “mini programs” have amassed over 100 million monthly active users (MAU) since launch this past July, according to Ping Xiaoli, head of the Baidu App and Baidu news feed product departments, per South China Morning Post.
Mini programs are stripped-down apps that can be launched from within Baidu’s search app, eliminating the need for consumers to download them separately from an app store. The mini program ecosystem is also flourishing, as there are now over 100 “scenarios,” or use cases — a significant improvement from the few “scenarios” available at launch. For example, mini programs allow users to book travel reservations, play games, and track hurricanes all within Baidu App.
Mini-app-like experiences that let users access an app without downloading it are gaining traction among consumers in China, signaling a bright future for Baidu App going forward. WeChat mini programs, similar to Baidu App’s, saw daily active users (DAU) reach 200 million as of Q2 2018, up 18% from 170 million in January 2018.
That’s likely because mini programs offer users a one-stop shop for virtually all of their mobile needs, including retail, e-commerce, and government services. Baidu’s move to embrace this strategy in its search app means users will complete the majority of their smartphone interactions within the app, instead of opening various applications to do the same, which will play a role in driving user engagement and time spent within Baidu App.
As mini-app experiences pick up steam in China, they could begin to threaten traditional app stores in the region. The additional convenience of having an app that allows users to access a plethora of services within one central, accessible location could give Baidu and WeChat an advantage over Android and iOS app stores.
For instance, mini apps allow users to save space on their smartphones because they run on the cloud and don’t take up the memory that apps downloaded from an app store do. Additionally, users are able to simply use a mini app for the time they need it, without committing to the full download that would be required in an app store, making this alternative a good option for consumers who only want to use an app every so often.