THE OTHER ALL-IN-ONE APP WeChat is no longer China’s only killer app; Alipay is going global and comprehensive
Late-mover advantage, or how innovative newcomers outperform pioneers, is what propelled Alipay toward the pinnacle of mobile payments and related digital services in China. Now, Alipay is expanding globally, unfolding a saga of success breeding more success.
At the turn of the 21st century, China had no entrenched credit card culture. Smaller online businesses with relatively low sales volumes were unable or unwilling to accept credit card payments due to high transaction fees. It was too costly to build their own fraud-proof e-checkout systems.
To address this dilemma, Alibaba, whose online marketplace Taobao was growing rapidly, launched Alipay in 2004. It designed Alipay to be Paypallike, an online payment tool and escrow provider.
Today, people see it as the avant-garde in mobile payments. But Alipay has gone beyond online payments into unchartered e-waters. For 450 million users, the Alipay app is a gateway to a wide array of functions, from options to buy wealth management products to booking medical services.
More than a decade after its founding in 1999, Alibaba established a financial affiliate, Ant Financial, to consolidate all such e-services under one roof. Users can connect to Yu’Ebao, the first internet-based money market fund, that helps them to earn higher yields on their idle cash. It is much more convenient than banks.
Alipay also evaluates customers’ shopping and spending habits to figure out their creditworthiness. Consumption patterns captured by Alipay translate into “Sesame Credit” scores, which offer certain benefits to consumers, like deposit-free services on bike-rentals to skipping long lines at the hospital.
Alipay is now an internet-based finance major, a one-stop portal for all types of payment solutions, said Ni Xingjun, vice-head of Alipay. “From scanning QR codes to accessing bank loans, we see ourselves in the driver’s seat in payment and financial services.”
The app is ranked as the top
third-party payment provider with around 55 percent of domestic market share, followed by archrival WeChat Pay’s 37 percent, according to iResearch.
Li Chao, a senior analyst at iResearch, said Alipay is a good choice to make big-ticket purchases and for asset management services.
One of Alipay’s latest endeavors is a pathway to its sister app Ant Fortune, on which thirdparty financial institutions can set up virtual shops and post content to lure customers. The pathway is another sign that Alipay is seeking supremacy in the burgeoning online finance sector.
Civic services have also gone virtual, thanks