WiT Singapore 2018: Cherry Huang talks Alipay and the emergence of the 'lifestyle super app'
By Marissa Trew
Monday, 5th November 2018

How can one really explain the phenomenon and colossus that is Alipay? Cherry Huang (General Manager, Cross-Border Business, South-east Asia, Alipay) did just that, documenting the goliath’s growth over the last 14 years from a 'Chinese brand for Chinese consumers' to having international presence in over 40 countries.

Now described as a “lifestyle super app”, Alipay serves over 700 million Chinese daily active users, with services ranging from payments to financial services, social platforms, merchant resources and life services. Since its beginnings in 2004, it has continuously layered services on top of its original payments function, catering to every consumer need imaginable.

As China outbound continues to grow, Alipay is positioning itself as the facilitator of easier (and more enjoyable) travel. Huang quoted Jack Ma, saying, “When we talk about the global traveller, travel is not the purpose. The purpose is having fun… so [Alipay] is trying to enable that.”

It is currently present in 40 countries, with 10 in South-east Asia alone. However, interestingly, its first priority is not to expand its international customer base, but rather “[to follow] Chinese travellers and enable them” digitally worldwide instead. Yet getting merchants to adopt the technology at first was not that straightforward, as many found the concept of mobile payments difficult to wrap their heads around.

It began by working with duty free shops that naturally see a large volume of travel spend anyway, especially for China’s outbound travellers. From there, it was about continuing to demonstrate its ease and convenience, to convince other merchants to adopt it too. “It was not very easy, a lot of merchants were sceptical of Alipay… we started spreading out until more and more realised that it’s easier [than cash]. Alipay takes less than three seconds for a single transaction.”

Its current top three markets in South-east Asia are Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, with Thailand coming out on top in terms of both transactions and merchant acceptance. In Bangkok alone, penetration is at roughly 70% and the numbers are still growing. Huang reported that now at least 65% of Chinese travellers use Alipay when abroad. So, if businesses want to set themselves up to cater to this ever-growing customer segment, there is pressure to adapt their payment services accordingly.

Read the full article here.

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