After years of trying to replicate the success of its QR code-enabled payment solution abroad, Ant Group seems to have finally found a path to scalability. Rather than go after end users, the Alibaba-affiliated fintech giant has quietly partnered with local payment providers in Asia. It has built something akin to the Mastercard or Visa digital payments network, allowing consumers to easily travel from home using their mobile wallet.
Ant calls the payment processing network Alipay+ to differentiate it from Alipay, the consumer-facing wallet that has become ubiquitous in China. Alipay+ has integrated 15 payment methods, reaching more than a billion users, Angel Zhao, president of international affairs at Ant Group, said during the Singapore Fintech Festival on Thursday.
To create a network effect, Alipay+ has been busy onboarding merchants. It currently supports more than 2.5 million businesses around the world. For example, a Filipino tourist visiting Japan can pull out his GCash wallet and pay at a store that supports Alipay+ by scanning a QR code; they can also display their wallet QR code for the cashier to scan. Similarly, a traveler from South Korea can pay in-store with Kakao Pay, and a Malaysian tourist can also pay with Touch ‘n Go. All the while, Alipay+ has automatically calculated and done the currency conversion part.
Alipay+ charges for enterprise software that acts as a provider of cross-border payments and merchant marketing solutions, an Ant spokesperson told londonbusinessblog.com.
But how would a GCash user even know about Alipay+? China’s internet giants are never short on customer acquisition tactics, and subsidy is one. On the GCash landing page, users can find an entry in a list of trading deals, provided they pay with Alipay+. At Shein’s pop-up store in Manila, Alipay+ gives users a discount of 130 PHP or $2 at checkout. Other Alipay+ partner wallets in Asia have incorporated these benefits in the same way.
The attraction of Alipay+ for merchants, on the other hand, is that one billion consumers can easily pay in their stores. That may sound impressive, but keep in mind that Alipay, which is unsurprisingly included in the Alipay+ alliance, had 700 million monthly users in 2020 alone thanks to China’s huge internet population.
Interestingly, at the event, Zhao emphasized that Alipay+ is not trying to be a super app — the type of mini-app-powered ecosystem exemplified by WeChat and Alipay in China. Rather, it serves as an infrastructure layer for other consumer-facing portfolios.
“While many of you are familiar with Alipay’s success in China, Alipay+ is not another SuperApp we are launching globally. Built on Alipay’s technological capabilities and know-how, Alipay+ provides cross-border digital payment and marketing solutions that connect global merchants, online and offline, with multiple e-wallets and payment methods from different countries and regions, and help merchants communicate with mobile-savvy consumers from all over the world. those payment methods. We’ve made a remarkable start since the official debut last year.”
As of today, Alipay+ is integrated with the following payment providers in Asia:
- Akulaku Paylater (Indonesia)
- Alipay (Mainland China)
- AlipayHK (Hong Kong)
- Boost (Malaysia)
- The Bank of the Philippine Islands app (Philippines)
- Dana (Indonesia)
- EZ-Linke Wallet (Singapore)
- HelloMoney by Asia United Bank (Philippines)
- GCash (Philippines)
- Kakao Pay (South Korea)
- Rabbit Line Pay (Thailand)
- TrueMoney Wallet (Thailand)
- Touch ‘n Go eWallet (Malaysia)
Although Ant has been exploring overseas growth for years, the task gained new urgency when Beijing ordered it to overhaul all facets of its operations in China. After the revamp, Ant is expected to operate more like a traditional financial holding company and bear more capital risk, inevitably hurting profitability.