by Liang Xizhi, Deng Qian
LONDON, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- While China's leading mobile-payment platforms, Alipay and WeChat Pay, are accelerating its expansion in global market in 2017, shrewd European businesses are also trying to adapt themselves as soon as possible to the new consuming habits of Chinese consumers in hopes of grabbing the huge potential brought by China.
A win-win business model is being fast established as the two sides are getting closer via a new way of payment.
MOBILE-PAYMENT TAKING ROOT IN EUROPE
The year of 2017 has witnessed the fast expansion of China's mobile-payment in Europe, as two China's major online payment platforms, Alipay and WeChat Pay, have appeared in many busy commercial zones in Europe, from duty-free shops in airports to vintage shops in high streets of major European cities, from the most popular outlets in Britain to chain stores in Germany.
They are taking root in Europe with not only their payment services but also their management and their long-range plan.
Alipay, for instance, has been used in the large part of the Europe. Ant Financial, the operator of Alipay, has set up branch offices in Britain, Luxembourg and other European countries.
Peng Yijie, vice president of the group, told Xinhua that Alipay has reached cooperation with BNP Paribas, Barclays Bank, Yusin Bank, SIX, Wirecard, Concardis, Ingenico and others to jointly work to promote mobile commerce in Europe.
Among them, BNP Paribas, Barclays UK, Yusin Bank, SIX currently have access to some 930,000 merchants in Europe.
What matters is not only the number, but also the convenience they could offer in consumption.
Through the cooperation with local banks, Alipay users are able to do easy payment when they consume in these merchant stores. Via POS machines, consumption can be completed by just scanning the barcode, the same way as what their peers in China are doing now.
It's still not all the plan of Alipay, which has established cooperation with German payment service provider Concardis.
Although the cooperation with Concardis has made the Chinese online payment platform available in over 200,000 German merchants, including major chain stores such as Metro, Aldi and Douglas, its operator Ant Financial has a more ambitious plan of extending its services to 2 billion users worldwide in 10 years.
According to the plan, in the future, 60 percent of Alipay's users will come from outside Germany. In addition to the online payment market, the Chinese company aims to help its business partners to promote the development of inclusive finance in the world.
A PROFITABLE ADAPTION
Over the past decades, thanks to the remarkable economic development in China, Chinese purchasing power has been on notable rise.
Chinese consumers become more and more important to many markets around the world, with no exception in Europe. European merchants know well about the importance of the potential of Chinese consumers, so that they are active in adapting themselves to the new Chinese consuming habits.
Value Retail is the developer and operator of a boutique collection of nine luxury outlet shopping villages in Europe, which include Bicester Village, the first and most successful one located in the UK, with 6.8 million consumers coming from all over the world each year. Among them, Chinese consumers are Bicester Village's highest spenders.
Sadie Tew, senior retail director of Value Retail, told Xinhua that at present 15 brands in the shopping village accept Alipay or WeChat Pay, and consumers can also use Alipay or WeChat Pay to purchase gift cards in the visitor center. Starting from next Spring Festival, most merchants in the shopping village will accept Alipay or WeChat Pay. "I am in charge of this project, and we recognize that this is very important to Chinese tourists," said Tew, who also showed her Alipay Application on her mobile phone.
WeChat Pay landed in Camden Market this November, a major consumption landmark in London. As the cradle of punk culture, there are massive different styles of stores, attracting tourists from all over the world who want to experience the avant-garde street culture of London.
Ceri Davies, the operation director of Camden Market, said he was delighted to introduce WeChat Pay into the sales system. "Hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists come to London every year. We feel that this is another way to continue to carry the Camden Market forward, which will also help to attract new visitors to our shops, stalls and restaurants."
"Camden Market, as an enduring tourist place, attracts over 30,000 visitors per day and this way is believed as an effective way to adapt to the growing number of local Chinese and Chinese tourists. We have been looking for innovative ways to support businesses and hope that this convergence could enable us to continue to meet the diverse needs of London," he said.
Yin Jie, who is in-charge of WeChat Pay's cross-border business operations, told Xinhua that WeChat Pay focuses on Chinese tourists in the UK and has already been used in wide-ranging ways, such as for shopping, brand retail, hotel bookings and restaurants bills.
Yin said WeChat Pay supports the payment access in 19 foreign countries and regions and lands over 13 countries and regions and supports direct billing via 12 foreign currencies. "We also hope that the China's mobile-payment and intelligent life model can be explored in more countries in the future."
Valoot Technologies Limited is a Hong Kong financial technology company which facilitated the cooperation of WeChat and numbers of cross-border payment agencies and business owners in the UK. Zhou Bei, chief operating officer of the company, told Xinhua that the number of Chinese tourists with higher purchasing power going out is increasing and the scale is huge.
She said this has become an indispensable consumer power for local businesses, making it necessary for local businesses to adapt to Chinese consumers' payment habits, which helps to boost the rapid growth of China's third-party payment market.
Due to the huge impact of Alipay and WeChat Pay in Chinese market and their expansion in overseas markets, foreign peers have noted that China is already at the leading stage in the field of financial technology payments. Foreign countries need to learn from China in turn, said Zhou.