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City Guide Application Development in China with Laravel

Posted in E-commerce on December 10th 2020
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Vice President and Co-founder at IT Consultis

ITC has developed a City Guide App in Beijing called simply “The Pass”. The application was designed to display vendor's information, geolocalisation, and offer a membership program with coupons.

What is The Pass?

True Run Media and the Pass, the Launch of a Geolocalisation Application in Beijing

True Run Media is an organization providing information and services to the international community in China’s largest cities. They operate media such as The Beijinger​, ​Beijingkids​, and Jingkids and the group position themselves as leaders in the local Beijing life.

True Run Media planned to create a subscription-oriented program on WeChat that would enable its members to enjoy various Beijing sites of interest. Expats can easily find places to go using an English-language app that displays places to visit and associated coupons or discounts. Members can free drinks in a range of food and beverages venues as part of the service.

In time, “The Pass” is intended to be an all-inclusive pass that members can subscribe to. Upon subscribing, they will be able to get freebies, discounts, and other typical membership benefits, covering hotels, beauty and fitness centers or special events. This range of benefits would, however, depend on the subscription level they choose.

Later, the creators of the app plan to offer it to other organizations as a white label platform. The Pass essentially offers monthly subscribers special coupons for each day in the month (depending on the number of days).

With one coupon per venue for every subscription period, a member can use a new coupon each day.

A Need for a Convenient City Guide Application for Expatriates in China

Whether you are a tourist or an expat, The Pass aims to make life comfortable in Beijing and, by extension, China. There are many apps out there that claim to make life easy in China, but not all of them meet user expectations. Expatriates living in Beijing needed a convenient English-language app that would help them identify and locate premium experiences in the city’s bars and restaurants.

The Pass Application Development

When exploring the need to build a life-enhancing app like The Pass, we needed to analyze and categorize the ​application’s key features​.

First, there is the subscription process. To become members, users first need to enter in their basic details. Here was also the question of promotion. As highlighted before, the idea was to create a web app based on Tencent’s WeChat.

By making the app similar to one that more than 1.2bn WeChat users were already accustomed to, it would be easier to drive adoption. Moreover, the goal was to bring together an range of vendors and restaurants from around Beijing to serve the app users. In brief, the idea of the Pass, a geolocalised city-guide development for China (and particularly Beijing), had three important objectives:


  • Gather Food and Beverage places in one App and share their main information.

  • Proficiently offer users special offers of the best places they can to eat.

  • Help the partner sellers extend their reputation and come to terms with

    their customers.

Build a community within the WeChat environment.

The Project developed by ITC


In Mainland China, many companies have leveraged the trend of geolocalisation app development. Inside WeChat, you can share your location with your friends and access company websites via Official Accounts. With the Pass, users can easily find restaurants in Beijing and get discounts and unique promotions with membership loyalty programs. It also allows registered companies to drive traffic from online to offline.

The Pass Application was developed using a combination of coupon offers and WeChat geolocation technology. Once again, we built the program so that the company would be able to scale the solution with other parties in future.

A WeChat-like Design

What is WeChat?

Initially launched in 2011, WeChat is a mobile messaging application created by the Chinese company Tencent. In Q2 2020 alone, the number of monthly active WeChat users exceeded ​1.2bn​, ranking WeChat among the most popular social media services in the world. Without doubt, WeChat remains the most used social media in China.

WeChat Pay ​enables users to transfer money with their mobile phone number. Currently, in China, it is consistently the most common payment method.

The decision to imitate WeChat: Minimize the learning curve

It was rightly suggested that the Pass, as a membership program in Beijing, should imitate WeChat. Given the top-notch features and market dynamics that WeChat as a social network offers, creating an app that could leverage such features made sense as an acquisition strategy.

Therefore, we worked towards building a Web App that would be able to recreate ​WeChat’s look and feel using a Laravel back-end. The result was a user-friendly Web App.

WeChat Key Features inspired

In the process of developing The Pass, we integrated a variety of ​WeChat key ​elements, intending to maximize WeChat’s features and match its interface. An essential aspect of the front-end of The Pass was the all-in-one incorporation of WeChat settings into its basic architecture.

A graphical layout was also created to recreate the appearance of WeChat. Every component, from the coupon creative and ​call-to-action (CTA), to the ​notifications, were standardized to achieve this. The result was a feature-rich app with the a color-scheme that matches WeChat’s style.

The Call-to-Action (CTA) links to “Claim Your Coupon” and “Use Your Coupon” are underscored in WeChat’s green color in clear contrast to other page components. This design attracts users to click on the CTA.

ITC was thus able to s​horten the learning curve​, which benefited the users already acquainted with WeChat. Our working objective rallied around one point – to place the users and their convenience at the center, through meticulous attention to detail.

Membership Program

For the membership program, we created ​custom coupons​. Custom coupons are designed to integrate with the WeChat membership system. The moment users register with personal information, they are provided with a variety of coupons. These coupons enable them to search for a store and geo-locate neighboring sellers that accept the coupons. Thus, relevant user data can be transmitted to registered vendors, who can use this information for further analysis.

This performs an essential function in keeping users engaged with the Pass. More than simply displaying a collection of stores, the geolocation affords greater flexibility to the users to fully maximize the app’s utility.

Users can also assess the vendor information - usage such as terms & conditions, opening hours, store location, and a shared map displaying the store’s direction. From the moment they claim a coupon, users can utilize it any time, any day. Clicking “Use your coupon,” will generate a notification for the staff in the venue where it is being used.

Each step of the customer experience is built according to an ​O2O strategy - from registering as a member on WeChat, obtaining coupons, and using the coupons in the store. By using WeChat to build this web application, the makers of The Pass have demonstrated their understanding of target user needs, effectively providing a seamless and delightful experience.


Laravel backend for easier management

In a bid to assist the membership program, the ITC Team designed a WeChat H5 Campaign using a React front-end and a Laravel back-end. The Pass is also collecting user data, and allows sellers to access rich insights regarding their businesses.

The Pass uses many different ​loyalty features, such as membership cards and geolocation. The motive behind this is to assist in building customized user-tracking and coupon management. Everything is designed to mirror WeChat’s functions and appearance, affording a seamless and straightforward user experience.

The Pass’ additional objective is to create the capacity to seamlessly manage the web application and ​coordinate all info regarding the users, coupons, and vendors. For a complete custom-made web app such as the Pass, Laravel was identified as the most powerful technology to create the management features required.

With the back-end program, Laravel, all features can be custom-built, creating a unique platform without no limitation. With the Laravel back-end, we were able to implement and easily control many functions efficiently. And importantly, we were to assist the Pass in ​tracking the activities ​of its users. Again, we were able to customize the Pass so that the coupon settings could be edited and, of course, manage the vendor database as well.

Back-end Features Implemented

With Laravel, two powerful ​management features were made possible. First, the Laravel back-end features a wide-ranging vendor management system. With this management system, admins can edit, add, update, or remove vendors in the front-end.

A chief pillar of the project designing and supplementing ​custom coupon​s that users can interact with requires both visual appeal and a high-performing functionality. Here, we acknowledge our developers’ efforts in updating themselves continuously on the complexities of WeChat, and who were thus able to achieve this goal using Laravel technology.

Moreover, admins can follow data such as coupon usage, WeChat user information, and vendor demographics.

To confront this challenge, we developed a system that requests access to WeChat when it is needed to collect information. This part of the platform enabled users to get a more enjoyable and steady experience. At the same time, the Pass was still able to gather valuable user info to guide its vendors.


True Run Media is now set to scale up in the rest of China.

Our developers made sure that each detail of the platform was fitted together. They ensured a seamless and all-inclusive user experience by keeping the design as close as possible to the WeChat app.

Moreover, the Pass was also designed to track the usage activities of the users. As a result, the Pass can supply stores with real-time sales information regarding their customers which can in turn be a great resource for enhancing their business. With far in excess of 2,000 active users in the initial week, one can easily imagine what significant impact will be possible on the Pass.

What About your Mini Program Project? 

IT Consultis is a digital transformation agency in Shanghai, Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City strongly committed to researching, creating and executing the best digital solutions, ranging from strategic projects to entirely tailor-made web developments, Mini Programs,appse-commerce websites, and in-store experiences.

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