Alibaba and Tencent's Fight over Chinese Cashless Spenders Escalates

    China's two leading mobile payment apps are both implementing marketing campaigns to promote the "cashless" concept in August.
    Photo: VCG
    Yiling PanAuthor
      Published   in Technology

    As the concept of "going cashless" heats up in Chinese society, the country's two leading mobile payment giants, WeChat Pay and Alipay, have pushed out marketing campaigns to further promote their respective payment apps to be the top destination for Chinese consumers looking to settle their cashless deals.

    On July 31, Alipay (under Alibaba Group) announced that it was naming the week beginning August 1 "Cashless Week"; on the same day, WeChat Pay (under Tencent Holdings) picked one day—August 8—and declared it "Cashless Day," and also nicknamed the entire month "Cashless Month."

    During the campaign period, both apps provide consumers with a massive amount of "real money" incentives (offered by Alibaba, Tencent and merchants who work with them) in order to reward them for going cashless shopping and, most importantly, for settling deals with their apps.

    Alipay users who spend at least two yuan per deal between August 1-3 have the chance to be rewarded with 0.88 - 4,888 yuan (roughly 0.13 - 728). These rewards are accumulative and can be used in the future. In addition, if people use the app to pay more than once each day during the campaign period, they can enter the lottery to receive a random portion of 18,888 grams of gold.

    Alipay associates the concept of "going cashless" with sustainability, touting the spending behavior to be supportive of the low carbon movement. To further promote the event, it invites many key opinion leaders (KOLs), including the popular teenage boyband TFboys, and frequently engages with Weibo users.

    WeChat Pay, on the other hand, relies heavily on its social network to promote the cashless trend on WeChat. This time, it allows users to share the incentives they gather to friends in the form of red envelopes, coupons and more. Furthermore, merchants working with Tencent can also distribute coupons and rewards through the mini app programs. All money that is collected by users is also accumulative.

    According to 36Kr, a Chinese tech publication, this is the third year that WeChat Pay is promoting August 8 as "Cashless Day" and the company plans to go big on the incentives this time to snap up more loyal users.

    Currently, more than 80 percent of Chinese consumers use Alipay as the primary mobile payment app in China, according to a recent survey. WeChat Pay's adoption rate is only 25 percent, followed by UnionPay at 20 percent. It remains to be seen if WeChat Pay can catch up with its social media strength.

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