Alipay Opens the Door to Online Buying in China
Alibaba pioneered a 90-day ‘tour pass’ program for short-term visitors to purchase goods online and offline via the Alipay platform. The aggressive expansion of Alipay in the e-wallet market exacerbated its competition with WeChat Pay.
Alipay, one of the two dominant mobile payment players in China, has made a step forward by moving to acquire more mobile payment or e-wallet customers. Short-term international tourists traveling in the country are now the company's new targets, with the company seeking to add to their 1.2 billion ordinary users.
On November 5, 2019, the South China Morning Post, one of the associates of Alibaba Group Holding, released the information that Ant Financial will give foreign visitors to the mainland access to their mobile payment platform from Tuesday. It will allow visitors up to 90 days’ usage of its smartphone application, without requiring a local bank account or mobile phone number.
In 2018, China welcomed 30.5 million foreign visitors, an increase of 4.7% from 2017. Ant Financial estimates that their consumption rates for lodging, food and shopping were up to USD 73.1 billion. Under its new program called ‘Tour Pass,’ Ant Financial launched the international version of Alipay. Visitors can download the app and register using international phone numbers. After paying for a 90-day prepaid card from the Bank of Shanghai, they are free to make both online and offline transactions via the Alipay platform.
The two payment giants maintained by Alibaba and Tencent have together taken over 92% of the mobile payment market share in China. The fierce competition between Alipay and WeChat Pay (also known as Tenpay) has never slowed down during their expansion.
As the coverage of the customers and consumption scenarios approaches saturation, these two giants have tried to further infiltrate into available market niches. They are also trying to motivate existing consumers to be more loyal to their platforms. Early this year, Alibaba launched its facial recognition device, known as Dragonfly (蜻蜓); soon after that, Tencent followed with its own facial payment machine, called Frog.
On the other hand, the two have been investing continuously overseas to find new growth power. Although the pattern seems to be the same, Alipay and WeChat Pay actually differ in strategies. Alipay has established more 2B business relations, while WeChat Pay focuses on direct 2C cooperation.
Alipay has established partnerships with more than 250 financial institutions around the world to provide online payment services for overseas merchants and users. It provides offline payment services in 54 countries and regions globally to help Chinese people realize the goal of having ‘One mobile phone [that] travels all over the world.’ More importantly, it has developed nine other “local versions of Alipay” to serve users in nine countries and regions.
WeChat Pay is slightly behind Alipay in both overseas merchant cooperation and global investment. However, the former is infiltrating into every corner of the world. The number of countries and regions that can use WeChat Pay has increased to 49, and the number of billable currencies has increased from 12 to 16.
In the wake of the new moves from Alipay, we believe that WeChat Pay will also launch payment applications for foreign tourists in the near future.