The world’s leading mobile payment platform, Alipay, has announced a three-year plan to further open up its platform to support the digital transformation of 40 million service providers across China.
Simon Hu, CEO of Ant Financial, unveiled the three-year plan at the Alipay Partner Conference in Hangzhou, China. The plan marks a major milestone as Alipay continues to strengthen its positioning in China, evolving from a platform that provides inclusive financial services to an open, vibrant digital ecosystem that offers users a gateway into a comprehensive digital lifestyle.
“The service sector in China is still in the nascent stages of digital transformation, and that means it has huge untapped potential,” said Hu. “Amid the ongoing Corona Virus outbreak, we have also seen how digital technology can be used to help service providers become more agile and respond effectively to the fast-changing market environment.
Building a one-stop digital lifestyle platform not only creates immense value for our users – it will also play an essential role in accelerating the digital transformation of the service industry and unlocking more growth opportunities.”
Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Alipay introduced an incentive program that encourages developers to create mini programs that can help users cope with the impact, including by fulfilling various lifestyle needs of those who are living and working from home, while minimising the need for physical contact with service providers.
Within a week, more than 1,200 developers responded, creating 181 mini programs on the Alipay app that enabled “contactless” services across China, including grocery deliveries, legal and medical advice, logistics, and public services. For example, a mini program providing free medical consultation offered by AliHealth received 700,000 daily visits on average.
Beijing-based grocery startup Meicai, which connects farmers with consumers and restaurants, also launched a mini program to make its delivery services available to Alipay users amid the Covid-19 outbreak. In one week, it attracted more than 800,000 new users and orders poured in from across 80 cities in China.
According to the China Internet Network Information Center, 99.1% of Chinese internet users went online via mobile devices in 2019, compared with just 24% in 2007. This increased penetration of mobile phone use in China has paved the way for the domestic service sector to begin adopting digital technologies.
China’s service industry contributed to 59.4% of GDP growth in 2019, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Despite their importance to the economy, Chinese service providers still rely heavily on traditional brick-and-mortar business models, and have yet to fully embrace digital technology to boost efficiency and improve the customer experience.
Alipay says its artificial intelligence-enabled incentive programme will encourage service providers to consistently improve their customer experience and enhance their distribution efficiency. Their users will be able to access personalised recommendations from newly added service sections in Alipay.
These moves will allow Alipay, with more than 900 million users in China, to rival what Tencent Holdings’ super app, WeChat, has pioneered with mini programs. Tencent’s highly versatile social messaging-payments -gaming-and-e-commerce platform, which has more than 1 billion users, currently runs more than 2 million mini programs. In early January, Tencent said WeChat users spent 800 billion yuan ($115 billion) on the platform’s various mini-programs in 2019, up 160% increase from the previous year.
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