Ant Financial wants its Alipay mobile payment app to support millions of other service providers in a bid to compete with Meituan and WeChat in digital lifestyle services.
Why it matters: The competition to build mini app ecosystems is heating up. This marks Ant Financial’s bid to rival Meituan’s all-purpose app and WeChat’s mini programs in being a one-stop-shop for “contactless services.”
- This would mean users don’t have to leave the app to access many other conveniences.
- Meituan launched a credit payment feature in January, marking its efforts to gain more fintech turf, competing head-on with Alipay, Tencent, and JD.com.
Details: At the Alipay Partner Conference on Mar. 10, Ant Financial announced a plan spanning the next three years to create a digital ecosystem. It will upgrade the Alipay app and tailor it to a multiple service platform.
- Ant Financial wants to expand beyond financial services into a platform featuring third-party service providers which provide other lifestyle conveniences for its users, and reward them for it.
- It will offer merchants growth assistance programs which include loan services.
- “The service sector in China is still in the nascent stages of digital transformation, and that means it has huge untapped potential,” said Ant Financial CEO Hu Xiaoming.
- The payment app said 1,200 developers answered its call to create mini programs that countered the impact from Covid-19, resulting in grocery delivery, legal and medical advice, and other public services.
- A mini program launched by Beijing-based startup Meicai links farmers with consumers and restaurants, and had more than 800,000 users, which its CEO attributed to exposure on Alipay.
- The homepage will use algorithms to recommend services to users, so that each user’s app is tailored to their requirements.
Context: In 2019, the number of searches for lifestyle services within the Alipay app has increased 300% compared with 2018.
- Covid-19 has consumers relying on online food delivery, medical consultations, and remote learning while they are stuck at home.
- Hu said that 80% of China’s service industry is not yet digitized.
- WeChat was a first-mover on mini programs in 2017, and Alipay followed suit in 2018.
- Mini-programs have become strategically important to the payment platform, amassing 500 million monthly active users last year.