Alipay upgrades mobile application
In a move to strengthen its position in China's vast and increasingly competitive e-commerce market, Alipay has upgraded its mobile application for smartphones to a version that allows users to pay for purchases even when they are not connected to the internet.
The latest version of Alipay Wallet is based on a sound-wave technology that connects users' phones with vending machines. "Believe me, this is only the beginning of the innovation of Alipay Wallet," said Fan Zhiming, president of the domestic business group with Alibaba's small and micro financial services unit.
Users can also electronically manage their credit cards, discount coupons and air tickets.
Alipay, an affiliate of mainland e-commence titan Alibaba Group, is the dominant third-party payment platform but is facing challenges from other companies trying to move into the mobile e-commerce industry.
China e-Business Research Centre estimates the mainland's mobile e-commerce market will grow 35 per cent to 130 billion yuan this year from last year, while McKinsy forecasts China will overtake the US as the world's largest online retail economy next year.
Tencent, the mainland's largest listed internet firm, launched a mobile payment option via its popular instant messaging application WeChat. It allows users to close transactions through bank accounts integrated with their WeChat account by scanning the so-called QR code.
"WeChat is a platform for information sharing for communicating between friends," said Fan. "How much does it understand about money or finance? I think one app can't cover all the features that online finance services require.
"Users come to Alipay because we've been focusing on the business for 10 years. Users put their money with us and they feel a sense of security with us."
Alipay in June launched Yu E Bao - or leftover treasure in Chinese - a service helping customers to convert money sitting idle in their Alipay account into investment. The convenience of the service - no minimum deposit, no commission and full flexibility to withdraw the money anytime - combined with an interest rate higher than those offered by banks, lured 2.5 million users and 5.7 billion yuan of investments two weeks.
Alipay's parent, Zhejiang Alibaba E-commerce, announced last week a plan to acquire a 51 per cent stake in fund management firm Tianhong Asset Management for 1.18 billion yuan, highlighting its determination to take on institutions with online financial services.