While Tencent’s WeChat has over 980 million monthly active users—mostly Chinese-speaking—around the world, the Chinese messaging app is still stranger to many other countries outside the Middle Kingdom. Tencent once surpassed Facebook in valuation. According to Chinaccelerator’s managing director William Bao Bean, Tencent’s WeChat achieves better monetization than Facebook.

Released in August 2013, WeChat Pay has expanded to 25 countries around the world, and among those countries, expansion to its neighboring countries—Japan and South Korea—was rather successful, according to Grace Yin, Director of WeChat Pay Cross-border Operation at Tencent at the press conference held at annual WeChat Open Class PRO in Guangzhou, China on January 15th.

She shared status quo of WeChat payment’s overseas expansion.

  • Japan: In the past one year, the expansion to Japan was rather good, according to Grace, collaborating with many local players. WeChat aims to make a better product, upgrade quality, benchmark local companies for local merchants, and further their expansion in the retail and traffic sector.
  • Taiwan: WeChat has Taiwanese bank partners. Taiwan’s  local stores are interested in WeChat payment and are active in adopting it.
  • South Korea: WeChat expanded to South Korea earlier because the local merchants had a better understanding of WeChat. WeChat said they are not concerned with KakaoPay, a Korean payment service for local people because Wechat is targeting only Chinese people.

She said it is not difficult to penetrate countries where credit card payment is already widespread, such as Japan and South Korea. “We are going to target Chinese tourists in those countries, so introducing WeChat payment there is not so different from doing it in China,” she said.

In WeChat’s localization effort in overseas countries, when a user makes a payment, she made it clear that “We don’t have to have money transacted in overseas countries to come back to China.”

Are overseas users using WeChat mini app at this point?

We have our partners, working with these local merchants in overseas markets. They give suggestion to storeowners about WeChat payment and mini app, to ask their demand and help them establish these solutions. We are now figuring out how we can do it better and to help them better.”

As for WeChat payment in overseas countries, WeChat is only targeting Chinese tourists. When would WeChat consider covering international users?

It’s only Hong Kong that WeChat is helping local people to use WeChat payment service at this point.

WeChat is initially a social app. If they don’t have experience using WeChat, then we cannot ask them to establish WeChat payment for their local users. WeChat payment usage go along with WeChat, and we have to see the regulation of different countries.

WeChat Pay has spread out to 25 countries now, what are the difficulties?

Our first step to educate the local users. There are so many funny stories in our expansion and promotion efforts to other countries, because all the culture and regulation is different from country to countries.

In Japan, we wanted to add WP to a department store. Since Japan is meticulous about service, they asked “don’t you like personal service face-to-face, rather than mobile payment?” I could see that they want that personal interaction with customer.

In Thailand, local people don’t have experience in mobile payment. Firstly, they said, it’s ok to run mobile payment options. But as we started it, they said “There must be a risk, according to our law. We have to establish all the regulation around QR code and the mobile payment.”

Has WeChat considered providing payment option to other third parties such as Southeast Asian taxi companies like Ola and Grab?

On top of last year’s 20 countries, WeChat has expanded to five more countries. This year, Indonesia and Singapore asked to add WeChat payment. In the taxi partnerships, we are doing it now. We are welcome to accept any overseas third party services to add WeChat payment to their payment option.

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at evayoo@technode.com

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