Se­niors take cue from QR codes, em­brace tech­nol­ogy

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By OUYANG SHIJIA ouyang­shi­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn Xin­hua con­trib­uted to this story.

For more than a decade, Ma Wan­sheng ran a small food stand in a night mar­ket in Lanzhou, cap­i­tal city of North­west China’s Gansu prov­ince, pro­vid­ing lo­cal snacks for peo­ple work­ing over­time or hit­ting the bar.

Ac­cept­ing pay­ments proved a has­sle for the 71-year-old, who of­ten had to fum­ble in his pocket for change on chilly nights, while keep­ing an eye on food cook­ing in the oven.

Do­ing busi­ness be­came much eas­ier after his grand­son helped him to set up mo­bile pay­ment apps like WeChat Pay and Ali­pay last year. A piece of paper with his QR pay­ment codes has helped stream­line the check­out process.

“About 95 per­cent of my cus­tomers pay with their phones. It’s con­ve­nient for both of us,” said Ma. “And giv­ing the wrong change is no longer an is­sue.”

Like Ma, an in­creas­ing num­ber of China’s se­nior cit­i­zens have em­braced in­ter­net-based mo­bile tech­nol­ogy and many have also started to en­joy the con­ve­nience of mo­bile pay­ment apps.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased by the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences at the end of 2017, the ra­tio of in­ter­net users who are 60 or above rose to 5.2 per­cent, up 1.2 per­cent­age points in a year. (The CASS is yet to re­lease data for 2018.)

“For many Chi­nese, mo­bile pay­ments have be­come an es­sen­tial part of their every­day lives. They not only change the lives of young peo­ple, but also pro­vide con­ve­nience for the el­derly,” said Zhang Jian­jun, an econ­o­mist based in Gansu.

China had more than 241 mil­lion peo­ple aged 60 or above at the end of 2017, 17.3 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion at the time, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data.

Thanks to longer life ex­pectancy and a shift in de­mo­graph­ics, that will rise to about one-quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion by 2030.

Si Xiao, head of the Ten­cent Re­search In­sti­tute, said the large el­derly group is turn­ing out to be a boom­ing mar­ket in to­day’s in­ter­net age, and tech firms should keep in mind how se­niors could have tastes and re­quire­ments dif­fer­ent from other users.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port re­leased by the TRI and Shen­zhen Univer­sity, China is wit­ness­ing a wave of tech-savvy el­derly peo­ple.

The re­port said a grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese se­niors are em­brac­ing dig­i­tal prod­ucts and ser­vices, par­tic­u­larly driven by their so­cial needs. As of Septem­ber 2017, Ten­cent’s WeChat mes­sag­ing app had gained 50 mil­lion ac­tive users above the age of 55.

“China’s de­mo­graphic div­i­dend is dis­ap­pear­ing,” Wang Bin, co-founder and pres­i­dent of the ven­ture and tech­nol­ogy-fo­cused me­dia plat­form iyiou, said dur­ing a re­cent an­nual in­no­va­tion con­fer­ence in Bei­jing, adding that se­niors can be re­lied upon as a re­li­able mar­ket.

“The ag­ing pop­u­la­tion will bring new op­por­tu­ni­ties to the mar­ket, es­pe­cially the health­care in­dus­try. And sec­tors tar­get­ing the se­nior group have proven strength in the pe­ri­ods of eco­nomic cycli­cal fluc­tu­a­tion,” he said.

Higher in­comes, and China’s con­sump­tion up­grade, are also al­low­ing peo­ple to in­creas­ingly sur­round them­selves with new prod­ucts and ser­vices to im­prove their lives, like smart­phones, wear­able health tech, air pu­ri­fiers, or wa­ter fil­ters.

Re­al­iz­ing that new tech­nol­ogy can be an ef­fec­tive tool in solv­ing many prob­lems re­lated to old age, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has been pro­mot­ing the use of tech­nolo­gies, such as the In­ter­net and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, in the area of el­derly care.

“I would ask more young peo­ple to help the old peo­ple learn to use dig­i­tal prod­ucts, which will help cre­ate a high-qual­ity com­pan­ion­ship,” said Si Xiao, pres­i­dent of the TRI. “Sta­tis­tics show that el­derly peo­ple are ac­tively em­brac­ing the dig­i­tal world. So, their fam­ily mem­bers should try to be pa­tient when in­tro­duc­ing new stuff.”

Two months ago, the ex-stall­holder Ma bought him­self a smart­phone and makes dig­i­tal pay­ments reg­u­larly. So much so, he of­ten goes to the con­ve­nience store or the mar­ket with­out any cash.

“When­ever there is some­thing new, I’m al­ways will­ing to give it a try,” Ma said.

GE CHUANHONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

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