Chinese payments company Alipay is on a mission to wean US consumers off traditional payment behaviours. Creating an integrated experience is at the center of making that happen, Alipay’s president of the Americas, Souheil Badran, explained to Liz Bacelar on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
“So far the whole US market has been so used to credit cards. And when you look at it from a tech perspective all the apps we use are in their own silos. They’re not connected at all,” says Badran, explaining that the Starbucks app is one of the few examples of an integrated experience based around the consumer’s lifestyle.
In order to achieve seamlessness, Badran hopes to see better collaboration with retail in what he calls the Uber experience – when getting from point A to B, the user no longer has to think about the payment aspect of it.
This everyday ease of use is already being achieved in China, where Alipay’s 520 million users have access to over 60 sub-applications integrated under the payment umbrella, creating a lifestyle ecosystem within the digital wallet that includes the ability to do things like pay peers and order a taxi.
But going beyond payments to create a larger sense of loyalty in this way in the US, means educating the consumers out of their comfort zone of just payments, Badran adds. “[Starting with the consumer], what are they looking for? What would make you go from just using your credit card, and what would attract you back to the app on a regular basis?”
Badran wants to see Alipay reach the same level of interaction in the US, as it has achieved in Asia. Current users check their digital wallets 15-20 times a day, for instance. He hopes US consumers can get to that point, in the same way they already do with their social media channels. This would include creating experience-led features and promotions based on purchase history and other aggregated data, he notes.
Chinese Alipay consumers are also a big market for US retailers, which Badran has been working hard to evangelize on their value. “Back in 2013 when you talked about China in general, people understood the size, but couldn’t quite grasp the value of it. I have seen a tremendous shift over the last 12 months and hopefully it will continue to grow.” To target these users, Alipay is working with retailers in the US and Europe to ensure payment capabilities and promotions that intensify around peak travel seasons, such as Chinese New Year.
For millennial consumers, Alipay helps quickly build user credibility by leveraging data from previous purchases. This means a merchant that accepts the payment service can have visibility of the user’s track record, says Badran. He uses the example of purchasing at a luxury store, where Alipay can potentially extend the shopper’s credit on the fly – unlike a static credit card limit – depending on data such as previous repayments.
At present, over 150,000 merchants in North America accept Alipay as a form of payment. The future looks bright for the mammoth Asian company as it taps into the digital need for always-on convenience, as well as a demand for platforms that enable personalization and experience.