Tech in China 2013: Alipay’s Offline Expansion

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The mobile app of Alipay got a major update and was renamed Alipay Wallet at the end of 2012. After an Apple Passbook-like service was added into it, more have been added this year. Now it’s a combination of payment tool, coupon and loyalty program management service, business account subscriptions, online financial products and a lot more.

The first mobile version of Alipay was launched in 2009. After six updates, it now has about 100 million installations, processing one third of daily payments for Alibaba e-commerce services that is an 800% year-over-year increase.

Offline Expansion

Eliminating cash is the goal of almost all digi-payment services. In early days, Chinese online shoppers preferred to pay with cash on delivery. But now digital payments for online shopping is commonly acceptable in China. Increasingly more users pay utility bills, phone bills and the like online. Offline world is where Alipay has been expanding to when it comes to eliminating cash.

Now you can make payments with Alipay for vending machine items in China’s subways, taxi fares in ten Chinese cities, train tickets from the state-owned online booking site 12306.cn, or goods at Yintai department stores or convenience stores.

QR Code payment and acoustic payment capability, named Alipay On-site, is the weapon for Alipay to expand in the offline world.

The acoustic payment function works even when no connection is available. Alipay Wallet app will automatically search for other users’ phones or devices within 5cm after you click open Alipay On-site. A payment will be processed after the payer clicks submit button. So it can be used for transferring money to other users or making payments for goods or services.

Alipay said it had had 460, 000 businesses, from Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces, online services, to telcos, to support QR code payments in November.

Alipayonsite

Alipay On-site

 

Opening up to Third Parties

For the first time in this year the Alipay app opened up to third parties. The first third-party apps include DDMap, an e-coupon service Alibaba had invested in, and iReader, a mobile reading service.

A similar service to WeChat’s Official Accounts was launched earlier this year. Simply put, it has businesses set up accounts within the app for users to subscribe to. Different from WeChat’s that everyone can apply for it, Alipay only accept businesses.