3 Chinese Mobile Payment Trends Businesses Should Know

    Chinese mobile payment data from the recent Lunar New Year revealed emerging trends that businesses abroad need to watch.
    Chinese travelers continue to use mobile payments more frequently abroad, and older travelers from smaller cities are leading the way. Photo: Shutterstock
    Matthew LubinAuthor
      Published   in Finance

    It’s no surprise that Chinese tourists now prefer to shop abroad using mobile payment platforms like Alipay and WeChat Pay, and both services have seen their acceptance expand significantly around the world, just within the last few years. Now, sales reports during major travel holidays are reinforcing that growth, making mobile pay options a must for businesses that want to grow sales among Chinese travelers.

    Considering the huge increase in spending via mobile payment platforms during the National Day holiday travel period this past October, it wasn’t a question of whether this month’s Chinese New Year holiday would see an increase in digital transactions but more a question of how much it would increase and who would drive that growth. Interestingly enough, three mobile pay companies — Alipay, WeChat Pay, U.S. mobile payment partner Citcon — have just released data on who’s been spending on these popular payment platforms during Chinese New Year holiday week. Here are Jing Daily’s three key takeaways:

    1. Smaller Cities’ Residents Are Paying with Mobile#

    Luxury brands and sales platforms have always assumed that mobile payments come from sophisticated buyers in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but new data is proving that’s not necessarily the case. Both Alipay and WeChat Pay saw significant increases in use from residents in third- and fourth-tier cities who outspent their counterparts in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. WeChat Pay confirmed that users from smaller cities now accounted for 40 percent of spending. In short: spending comes from everywhere in China.

    2. Older Traveler Spending via Mobile Is Booming#

    Although the massive Millennial and Gen-Z generations of consumers in China keep executives awake at night, it’s starting to become clear that businesses looking for travel dollars on mobile platforms simply cannot ignore Generation X — and we now have numbers to prove that. Alipay users born between 1960 and 1969 increased by a whopping 230 percent from last year, and their spending abroad through the app increased 250 percent. Meanwhile, the number of Alipay users born between 1970 and 1979 increased by 190 percent from last year, with spending overseas jumping by 232 percent. Maybe Gen Xers have gained better jobs as they’ve aged or they’ve become enamored with payment technology, but either way, they’ve clearly now committed to spending more abroad via apps.

    3. Mobile Pay in the West - It’s Working#

    Experts have predicted the rise of Chinese mobile payments and extolled the benefits of Western businesses adopting such platforms, with businesses that have adopted it proclaiming success. Now, it looks as if the tipping point has finally come. WeChat noted that France was now among the top 10 foreign countries with the greatest WeChat Pay spending volume — the first time the country made the list of mostly China-neighboring countries. It’s also an indication that many more retailers and businesses have finally adopted the platform. And in the U.S., the number of merchants now accepting Chinese mobile payments -- including UnionPay QR Code Payments, Alipay, and WeChat Pay -- saw an impressive 800 percent year-on-year increase in luxury and fashion retail sales in 2018, and Citcon saw total mobile payment volume in the U.S. increase 10-fold from last year — a huge jump. Meanwhile, the average purchase size in the U.S. rose to 150 from about 120 last year, according to Citcon.

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