Alipay to Focus on Chinese Visitors in North America Rather Than Local Consumers

Alipay, the Chinese e-payment giant, will focus on the spending patterns of Chinese tourists, students, and consumers rather than Canadian consumers.

According to a new report from BIV, the service — the world’s largest of its kind — doesn’t plan on releasing a wallet app in North America anytime soon. Rather, it claims that Canadian businesses can still benefit from the service by taking advantage of visiting Chinese consumers who might not otherwise spend their “discretionary income during their Canadian visits.”

“I just think that people here don’t understand the scale of this, of just how ubiquitous e-payment is in China,” says Chenni Xu, the North American corporate communications manager for Ant Financial, “the official corporate moniker of the platform linked to Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group.”

“The fact is, in China, this is a lifestyle app,” she continues. “People pay their utilities through it. They get their taxis through it. They buy movie tickets and everything else with it, and when they come here, we really see Alipay as a superhighway to the Chinese consumer.”

A Nielsen report recently found that over 90 percent of Chinese tourists are likely to use mobile payment platforms such as Alipay and WeChat Pay rather than cash, with many consumers forgoing physical wallets in favour of using their mobile phones for the large majority of their purchases.

“In a lot of cities in China like Hangzhou, where our company is headquartered, it is really completely cashless,” Xu said. “So if you are in a taxi and you try to give the driver cash, he or she will wonder, ‘Where did you just come from?’ and ‘What are you doing?’… The fact is, consumers expect this because they are using Alipay like their wallets in China. So having Alipay just makes it so much more convenient for them to spend and consume.”

Since opening its Vancouver office in January, Alipay has seen 180,000 North American vendors adopt its payment platform. The most significant Canadian addition in recent months is the addition of 7-Eleven — it added both Alipay and WeChat Pay to 25 of its retail locations in Vancouver in November of last year.

“As a private company, we do not release financial or strategic information, but we are focused on supporting the needs of tourists and the Chinese community in the Vancouver Greater Area and beyond,” says 7-Eleven Canada spokesperson Laurie Smith. “This initial rollout will determine next steps and how we can continue to enhance the experience of our customers.”