Chinese not so keen, or unable, to make mobile payments overseas

Study shows 21pc of have never used WeChat Pay or Alipay in a foreign country. 61pc said they didn’t know they could, or mobile payments were not offered by merchants

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 8:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 10:54pm

Chinese consumers are already proving to be addicted to using mobile payment services, dominated by rivals Tencent’s WeChat Pay and Alibaba’s Alipay, for everything from hailing a car to paying for tips.

But they are not as keen on using the omnipotent QR code when travel abroad, it seems.

New research from consulting firm Kapronasia, shows 21 per cent of 1,000 Chinese consumers surveyed said they have never used WeChat Pay or Alipay in a foreign country, with 61 per cent combined citing the reason they didn’t know they could, or mobile payments were not offered by merchants.

More foreign brands have already admitted that Chinese travellers are becoming the major contributors to their sales, but nearly half of those surveyed suggesting three per cent or less of transactions are being made using Chinese mobile payments.

However, of the thousand Chinese consumers surveyed by Kapronasia, 70 per cent said their decision to pay with Alipay or WeChat Pay hinged purely on whether they are offered the opportunity by foreign merchants in the first place.

“Western brands have been slow to adopt Chinese mobile payments, due in part to their lack of awareness of how big mobile payments are in mainland China ,” said Candice Koo, manager director of Cancan, a payment service provider which sponsored the study.

“[The low penetration also comes] partially from the unrecognised demand of Chinese tourists wanting to pay with mobile when shopping overseas.”

Security concerns, however, rank reasonably highly when using mobile payments overseas, with more than a third (37 per cent) admitting they were “not confident that it’s secure or not”.

In China, the two rivals dominate the US$5.5 trillion online payment market, according to research firm Analysys.

Western brands have been slow to adopt Chinese mobile payments, due in part to their lack of awareness of how big mobile payments are in mainland China
Candice Koo, manager director of Cancan, which sponsored the study

Alipay held a 54 per cent share of mobile transactions by value, while WeChat Pay claimed 40 per cent, in the first quarter of 2017. However, the gap is certainly narrowing, with Alipay accounting for over 80 per cent of transaction value just three years ago.

The study showed “merchants indicated WeChat was their top-choice of payment method, and that many planned to accept it in future, but don’t already.

In recent months, the two main mobile payment rivals have upped the ante by aggressively expanding overseas.

WeChat pay is now available in 15 countries and regions for payments in 12 currencies, while Alipay is accepted in more than 100,000 stores in 26 countries across Europe, North America, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

However, their strategies are very different.

Alipay was originally created by Alibaba to support its successful e-commerce platforms Taobao and Tmall, whereas Tencent’s WeChat Pay is an extension of a social ecosystem that counts 800 million users.

Also, while Alipay is diligently locking into local partnerships to promote itself as a commercial solution, WeChat Pay’s expansion is user-driven and emphasises non-commercial functionalities for merchants to engage their clients via the platform, said Koo, who believes the technical backgrounds of two tech giants also sometimes act as a hurdle for them.

“Asking a brand to put a bulky cutting-edge technology payment terminal on their shop floor to accept mobile payments might be at odds with its image,” she added.

“And offering generous in-store discounts, to those using the platforms, could also act as an anathema to some luxury brands.

“[The mobile payment providers should] not only think about the tech, but also ask the question ‘does the solution fit well with our brand image?’ ”

Alibaba is the owner of South China Morning Post.

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