Apps aid­ing for­eign­ers with in­ter­net shop­ping

China Daily (USA) - - ANALYSIS - By LI JING li­jing2009@chi­

Dee Prichard has lived in China for four years and started shop­ping with WeChat Wal­let, an on­line pay­ment ser­vice, about 12 months ago.

“It makes it eas­ier for me to use,” she said, re­fer­ring to the pop­u­lar on­line shop­ping site. “Be­fore, when I tried to use, I had to look for prod­ucts that al­lowed me to pay on de­liv­ery. But now, be­cause I have the on­line pay­ment, I can buy any­thing.”

Prichard, an English and busi­ness teacher from the US, shops on­line about three times a week. Ex­cept for clothes, she buys ev­ery­thing on­line.

“Hon­estly, be­fore I go shop­ping, I look on­line first. If I can find it on­line, I buy it,” she said.

At first, she used on­line pay­ment only when shop­ping on­line, but later she dis­cov­ered that it could be used for many things in the real world.

“At a lo­cal ven­dor where I buy beef, it was kind of a sur­prise to me when she said she also ac­cepts mo­bile pay­ment,” Prichard said, adding that she’s be­come ac­cus­tomed to ask­ing at ev­ery store whether they ac­cept WeChat Wal­let.

The growth in on­line pay­ment has also trans­formed the life of Czech busi­ness­man Jan Heb­nar.

“I trans­fer money to my friends on­line, pay for din­ners, lunches, and so on, when­ever it’s pos­si­ble,” he said. “I’m get­ting into the habit of not car­ry­ing much money in my pocket any­more.”

Heb­nar is a man­ag­ing part­ner of CEE In­vest­ment and Trade, a com­pany that im­ports food prod­ucts from Cen­tral Euro­pean and sells them to Chi­nese con­sumers on the in­ter­net. He said he started to use on­line pay­ment in 2012 after open­ing his first shop on Taobao, an on­line mar­ket­place op­er­ated by Alibaba Group.

“On­line pay­ment smoothes e-com­merce a lot,” he said, adding that Taobao also for­ward pay­ment im­me­di­ately to a ven­dor’s ac­count, whereas web­sites such as or Ama­zon hold on to the money for a pe­riod of time.

Com­pared with China, he added, on­line pay­ment is used much less in his na­tive Czech Re­pub­lic.

“It’s be­cause the pen­e­tra­tion of credit and debit cards is much higher than in China, so the adop­tion of this new tech­nol­ogy is slower,” Heb­nar said. “In China, on­line pay­ments ba­si­cally re­placed debit cards be­fore they were made avail­able to the ma­jor­ity of Chi­nese.”

Ac­cord­ing to Analysys, a Bei­jing in­ter­net con­sul­tancy, WeChat Wal­let has 300 mil­lion monthly ac­tive users and is avail­able at more than 300,000 re­tail­ers in China, while Ali­pay has 200 mil­lion monthly ac­tive users and works with about 1 mil­lion re­tail­ers.

For for­eign­ers, how­ever, the big­gest prob­lem with on­line pay­ment apps is the lan­guage bar­rier.

Prichard said one of her col­leagues helped to set up her WeChat Wal­let, but she found it dif­fi­cult to get any English in­struc­tions for Ali­pay.

“If a for­eigner needs to ask for help so many times, it’s a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ing,” she said. “If I could use Ali­pay, I’d use Taobao more.”

The prob­lem is also true with other Chi­nese apps. “I’ve down­loaded sev­eral apps, but there is no way to change lan­guages,” Prichard said. “I have many for­eign friends who have all asked the same ques­tions — does any­body know how to use this app?”

But now, be­cause I have the on­line pay­ment, I can buy any­thing.” Dee Prichard, an English and busi­ness teacher in Bei­jing

I’m get­ting into the habit of not car­ry­ing much money in my pocket any­more.” Jan Heb­nar, a Czech busi­ness­man in Bei­jing

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