Sneak peek to WeChat Pay Malaysia: How to enable, top-up, withdraw balance?

Sneak peek to WeChat Pay Malaysia: How to enable, top-up, withdraw balance? - ecinsider.my

Did you know that Malaysia is the first overseas launch for WeChat Pay? Find out more on how to activate WeChat Pay and use it to make payments

The talk of the town is that WeChat Pay is finally launching in Malaysia this month. Without any official announcement, the local wallet in MYR has been quietly made available to Malaysia.

It seems like this has been rolled out to some local WeChat users (not all according to our check), could it be in beta mode? You can try it out yourself by following steps below.
WeChat Pay in Malaysia

Introduction to WeChat Pay

Before that, let's start with a quick introduction to WeChat Pay, especially for those who aren't familiar with China and WeChat.

If you have ever been to China in recent years, you get to experience the cashless society with WeChat Pay and Alipay being the duopoly there.

However, it is not easily available to foreigners, as you need a local China bank account to top-up your WeChat Pay balance.

A quick trick is to get your friend with Renminbi balance to transfer some funds to you and voila! You can then use it to pay everywhere you want, ranging from hawker stalls, kiosks, mom and pop stores, retail outlets to many more.

Just watch the video below on our own WeChat Pay experience in China earlier this year.

Malaysia is the first overseas launch for WeChat Pay

You might be wondering why Malaysia? First of all, did you know that Malaysia has the second largest overseas Chinese population in the world after Thailand?

If we are to consider Chinese population which is closer to China in terms of language and culture, Malaysia easily has the most in the world out of China.

Tencent (the parent company of WeChat) has also claimed that there are 20 million WeChat users in Malaysia,according to S.Y. Lau, Senior Vice President of Tencent.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense for Tencent to launch WeChat Pay first in Malaysia.

By looking at the timing of its imminent launch here, we wouldn't be surprised if they replicate the WeChat red packet a.k.a. hongbao (微信红包) formula here for Hari Raya - green packet perhaps? It was one of the key stimulators of cashless society in China back then.

Without further delay, let's find out how it works here!

How to enable WeChat Pay in Malaysia?

Just follow the step-by-step guide below, especially if you already have RMB balance in your WeChat wallet. Bear in mind that, this is not made available to every WeChat users yet according to our findings.
WeChat wallet in RMB balance
If you have RMB balance (China Region )

WeChat Pay: other regions enabled
You will be prompted with "other regions enabled"

WeChat Pay: switch wallet region
Select "Switch Wallet Region"

WeChat Pay: select wallet region
Select Malaysia as your new region

WeChat Pay Malaysia is activated!
WeChat Pay Malaysia (with RM) is activated!

How to top up WeChat balance in Malaysia?

From our test and findings, it seems that we can only top up with a debit card now, other top-up methods are not available yet at the time of writing.
WeChat Pay Malaysia balance
You need to top up WeChat balance first

WeChat Pay: top up balance using debit card
You can only top up using a debit card now

WeChat Pay: set 6 digits authentication PIN
Set 6-digits payment PIN (it's like your password)

WeChat Pay: Debit card authorization
RM0.01 will be charged to your debit card

WeChat Pay: debit card added / linked
Your debit card is now added / linked

WeChat Pay: top up balance
The top-up limit is RM1,500 for unverified users

WeChat Pay: top up successful
RM10 top up successfully via Maybank Debit Card

What is WeChat Quick Pay?

If you haven't realized, China is a "QR code country" in which we haven't seen similar adaption here yet. Quick Pay is one of the QR code features of WeChat, to enable merchants to scan your QR code on transactions.

From our experience in China, it is usually the larger merchants or retailers who scan your QR code with a scanner that linked to their POS system. It is the other way round for smaller merchants - you scan their QR code instead.
WeChat Pay: enable Quick Pay
Enable Quick Pay on WeChat Pay

This QR is dynamic (refresh every minute for security purpose)

How to withdraw your WeChat Pay balance in Malaysia?

Unlike the controversy of our very own Touch 'n Go, it is a pleasant surprise to find out that we can withdraw WeChat Pay balance here without much fuss, ironically even before its official launch!

We tested balance withdrawal to a Maybank account and it works, you can withdraw your WeChat balance to 29 banks at the time of writing.
WeChat Pay: withdraw balance to Maybank
We tested RM1 withdrawal and it works!

WeChat Pay: withdraw instructions
Withdrawal limits of WeChat Pay in Malaysia

Which merchants accept WeChat Pay in Malaysia now?

We are not expecting many merchant partners before the official rollout, but you can top up your mobile prepaid via WeChat Pay at the moment.

Surprisingly, you can also buy bus tickets via WeChat Pay and select the seats within the app too, this is something cool!
WeChat Pay: pay for mobile prepaid top-up
You can use WeChat Pay to top up mobile prepaid

WeChat Pay: pay for bus ticket
You can buy bus tickets too!

WeChat Pay: select seats within the app
You can select bus seats within the app, wow!

What about you? Have you tested it out? Do share with us your experience and feedback in the comment box below.

Don't forget to watch our WeChat Pay experience in China, we used it to pay food stall, fashion merchant, vending machine, and retail store. Are we expecting the same will happen here in Malaysia? Time will tell



I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went

I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went

I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
“I’m going to take some cash. I’ll probably need it,” I say, as I prepare to leave the house. The cat
yawns in response. I yawn. Are cat yawns contagious, like human ones?
I need some coffee.
So that’s going to be my first stop as I try to get through an entire day using only WeChat to pay for stuff. I don’t have a lot of confidence that it’ll work as planned, which is why I stuff some money and a bank card into my pocket as I always do. Even though the hugely popular messaging app has 600 million active users at the last count and is made by Tencent, one of China’s top web giants, I’ve not seen many people using WeChat in stores to pay for stuff. I’ve noticed a bunch of retail chains have WeChat Payment or Alipay stickers by the counter, but it’s far from widespread.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
So today I’ll try to use WeChat’s cashless mobile payments as much as I can throughout the day. If it’s not available at a store, I’ll opt for Alipay, Alibaba’s mobile wallet app. Failing both, I’ll go find a different shop or just pay up in cash.
I head out.

10:45am: Parking on the street

Cost: RMB 5 (US$0.80)

WeChat win? Nope

Just as I’m finishing reversing into the spot, an elderly parking attendant appears out of nowhere at the driver-side window. Dao. Dao. Dao. Ting! I smile and give him a nod as if I were listening to his advice. I’m not sure if China has parking meters – I’ve never seen any. This chap does the job.
I decide that now’s a bad time to start my mobile payments experiment and hand over a five renminbi note, which he pockets with a xie xie and then ambles off so quickly that I’m not sure where he went. You’re supposed to be given a receipt; I saw him holding a wad of them. He’ll probably pocket that money, I think to myself. That’s another argument in favor of cashless payments – stopping civic funds vanishing into the ether.

11am: Coffee

Cost: RMB 26 (US$4.10)

WeChat win? Nope

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. I walk briskly past Starbucks. I’m not a Starbucks-snubbing hipster – I just know the chain doesn’t take in-store mobile payments in China even though it has all the equipment there. The server can scan the QR code from my Starbucks app for loyalty points and send the information online, so the company can surely accept WeChat or Alipay because they use exactly the same procedure. Probably some corporate bureaucracy holding it up.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
A block further on, I reach Costa Coffee. There’s a plastic Alipay logo stuck to the counter. Can I pay with WeChat, I ask? I cannot. So I launch the Alipay app and hit the “Pay” icon. A QR code pops up, which the barista scans quickly and the payment is done in a beat. Far quicker than paying with a credit card. Faster even than handing over the right change. She tells me that Costa added Alipay as an option just a few weeks ago.
When my phone is handed back to me I notice I was only charged RMB 26 (US$4.10) instead of the usual RMB 31 (US$4.90) for my medium cappuccino. The app screen shows me I got an “Alipay discount” for no discernable reason other than that I used the app.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
The Alipay app encourages me to rate that branch of Costa, so I give it five stars. Then it demands I snap a photo, so I do that and press “send.” I’ve just been tricked by Alibaba into creating Yelp-style content. I guess the discount buttered me up.

1:40pm: Lunch

Cost: RMB 33 (US$5.20)

WeChat win? Nope

I’ve already picked out my order when I remember to ask if I can pay using WeChat. I’m told I cannot – nor Alipay.
But I could use Dianping, the Mosburger lady tells me. That’s a reference to the daily deals site that Tencent, the maker of WeChat, has invested in. That entails me buying a Dianping deal. More specifically, a discounted coupon.
To find it, I dig through the “Group Buy” section inside the “Wallet” part of WeChat. The location-based thingy inside the food part of the Dianping web app embedded in WeChat shows me that the nearest deal to me is in Mosburger. So it knows where I am.
I find a Mosburger coupon worth RMB 30 (US$4.70) that I can get for RMB 25 (US$4). If I spend more, I’ll have to make up for it in cash, or if I spend less I won’t get any change back. I can pay for the Dianping voucher using WeChat Pay.
There’s no queue behind me, but I’m feeling frustrated at this point.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
I decide this is too much hassle and it still involves me using a bit of cash, so I shove my phone in my left pocket and pull out some cash from the other.
It’s not going well for WeChat so far.

2:20pm: Refreshments

Cost: RMB 6.9 (US$1.10)

WeChat win? Yes. Finally!

I avoided the sodas in Mosburger, so now I need a drink. The nearest convenience store is FamilyMart – which, super conveniently, does take WeChat Payment. I know that because I’ve used it before. If anyone at Tencent is spying on my WeChat spending habits, they’ll know I buy a lot of Kirin and Asahi at FamilyMart.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
A sign near the cashier’s desk, partially tucked behind a Durex vibrator, shows that the store accepts both Alipay and WeChat Payment. The Durex display shelf is at child’s eye level. The woman serving customers notices me snapping a few photos. I wonder if she thinks I’m taking a photo of the abundant array of condoms, lubes, and vibrators.
I need an orange juice to wash away the saltiness of the Mosburger fries, so I grab one from the fridge. Shuffling up to the counter, I launch WeChat, go to the Wallet section, and hit “Quick Pay”; the cashier is already poised with the scanner. Finally… WeChat Pay makes itself useful for the first time today.
I kinda hope she now realizes I was taking a photo of the sign, not the vibrator.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
I’ve had discounts in the past when paying with WeChat at several chains of stores, but this time there was none.

2:40pm: Socks

Cost: RMB 51.6 (US$8.10)

WeChat win? Yup

I spot a Uniqlo and wonder if it’s too late in the year to grab a few summery essentials. It’s still 25’C in late October. As I look for the men’s section, I spot the WeChat Payment logo on a few notices scattered around the store saying that a discount as high as RMB 200 (US$31.50) is available if you pay using the messaging app. In the corner of the notice is a QR code to follow Uniqlo’s WeChat brand account.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
After picking out three pairs of short summer socks, I look around for plain T-shirts, but it’s all fleeces and jackets. At the counter, the clerks are all wearing Halloween hats. When did Halloween become a thing in China? There’s a sign by the counter that’s similar to the FamilyMart one.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
The girl in the witch’s hat tells me that’s RMB 59 (US$9.30), but it turns out to be just RMB 51.6 (US$8.10) when I look at the screen after the payment is completed.
I’m enjoying the discounts.

3pm: A few things for dinner

Cost: RMB 141 (US$22.20)

WeChat win? Nope

A quick web search reveals that several major supermarket chains in China take mobile payments, such as Walmart, Carrefour, and Lianhua. But those are not in my area. The place I usually go to for my weekly shop, Sam’s Club, hasn’t added support.
Right now, I only need a handful of fresh things, so I head to my usual deli-cum-imported-goods-store for stuff like mozzarella and fresh yoghurt. And vodka.
Unsurprisingly, no WeChat Pay or Alipay signs around. I pay in cash. You might have more luck with m-payments at such small stores in Shanghai or Beijing.

3:10pm: Vegetables

Cost: RMB 13.2 (US$2.10)

WeChat win? Nope

There’s also no chance of anything but cash at the local ‘wet’ market. The stalls don’t even take cards.
I walk out with a cluster of small change in my back pocket, including eight one-jiao coins that I’ll later throw onto a little tray in a drawer at home, where they’ll stay for years with hundreds more of them until I remember to use them up in some way. One of those coins is worth 2 US cents.

3:55pm: Gas station

Cost: RMB 200 (US$31.50)

WeChat win? Nope

A while later, I pull into a Total gas station for the usual fill-up. You can pay in cash by handing it to the attendant or you can walk into the store to pay with a card. Those are the only two options – as 20th-century as gas-guzzlers themselves.

4:50pm: Water

Cost: RMB 16 (US$2.50)

WeChat win? Yes

Back at home, I realise the 18-liter purified water bottle is empty and needs to be changed. I open WeChat, find the brand account of my water supplier, and with just one click I’ve ordered a delivery of a new bottle.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
OK, this is cheating a little as I paid for a fistful of vouchers for the water months ago (in cash), so I’m not actually paying for this through WeChat. But this method of ordering is great because it replaces the previous phone call to the water company hotline. Less human interaction = a win in my book. Besides, now I know that I can buy the vouchers inside WeChat, I’ll do that next time I need more.

5:25pm: Topping up my phone

Cost: RMB 198.5 (US$31.30)

WeChat win? Yup

WeChat can be used for a ton of stuff. Booking a cab though Didi Kuaidi and then paying for it cashlessly; paying utility bills; transferring money to friends; paying off the credit card you’ve linked to your WeChat account; buying rail and train tickets; donating to charity; and saving money in Tencent’s personal wealth fund. Plus, you can top up your mobile credit.
I click that option, then click an amount, and then press my thumb to my iPhone’s home button – and the payment is done. It takes about 10 seconds to do the whole thing.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
WeChat is already tied to my phone number, so there’s nothing to input. It sure beats using my telco’s clunky website.
I opt for a RMB 200 (US$31.50) top-up and get a minuscule discount on it.

My day of obedient, mindless consumerism is at an end. The experiment yielded four successful payments using WeChat out of 10 transactions. Add in one paid for using Alipay, and half of the stuff I had to cough up for was handled with quick-as-a-flash m-payments.
That’s not too bad. But considering how powerful Tencent and Alibaba are, with hundreds of millions of users each day on their core products, it’s noticeable that the tech giants haven’t invaded offline retail as much as you’d expect.
I tried to survive an entire day using WeChat to pay for stuff. Here’s how it went
Alibaba’s Alipay is a mobile wallet app, so it’s more focused on payments than WeChat
If Tencent and Alibaba are struggling like this, then an outsider like Apple will face a monumental challenge with Apple Pay once it finally arrives in the country. Alipay started in-store payments back in July 2011, while WeChat’s more recent push into ecommerce expanded to retail outlets in September last year.
On the plus side, the tech worked flawlessly each time, and store employees were knowledgeable about what to do.
Could someone in China use mobile payments for everything? Only if they go to stores they don’t usually frequent in areas they usually don’t visit. That’s not what I call convenient. But the shift away from a cash-is-king society is well under way.
Website: https://www.techinasia.com/day-with-wechat-payments-in-stores


Tencent’s WeChat Pay looks to offer payment services in Malaysia

Tencent’s WeChat Pay looks to offer payment services in Malaysia

Tencent Holdings has applied for a licence in Malaysia to offer local payment services via its WeChat Pay.
Director of WeChat Pay’s global operation Grace Yin told Reuters if approved, it will a first for the platform outside mainland China and Hong Kong. With the application is successful, users in Malaysia will be able to link their local bank accounts to WeChat Pay and pay for goods and services in local currency, the ringgit. She added that this is because of the large Chinese community in Malaysia.
In fact, WeChat Pay and Alibaba Group’s affiliate Alipay are turning China cashless by enabling payments or money transfers at the convenience of a code scan. The pair are expanding globally now, aligning itself with the increase of outbound Chinese travellers to get more companies on board to accept their services. This will allow users to make payments using bank accounts in China without any currency exchange issues.
Malaysia’s Genting  collaborated with CIMB Bank  in June this year  to launch cashless payment with Alipay at Resorts World Genting, targeting primarily at Chinese visitors. The partnership marks the resort being the first hospitality merchant to introduce Alipay in Malaysia. With Alipay, travellers are able to use their Alipay mobile wallet at various F&B outlets at Resorts World Genting, Awana Skyway station, SkyAvenue station and indoor Theme Park (SnowWorld, Bowling centre and Vision City).
Genting has also been transparent on why it aims to target the Chinese tourists, as it revealed shared A+M, that nearly one-third of the two million tourists from China who visited Malaysia in 2016, came to Resorts World Genting. It added that this year, Malaysia’s Ministry of  Tourism and Culture has projected three million Chinese visitors who would the country and out of this figure, one million is expected to visit Resorts World Genting.
This week, Alibaba also made news headlines after it featured two new technologies aimed to disrupt the offline retail space at its second annual Taobao Maker Festival taking place from 8 to 12 July.
Alibaba launched an experimental cashier-free coffee shop called “Tao Cafe” (淘咖啡) and smart speaker “Tmall Genie”. Its “new retail” strategy makes use of its big data technology and, connects offline outlets to online stores to enhance customer experiences.
By scanning a QR code on Taobao app at the entrance of the store, patrons are tracked with cameras for facial recognition. After going through the checkout doors, customers will automatically make a purchase through their smartphones without needing to head to a register.
Chris Tung, chief marketing officer of Alibaba Group said the pop-up Tao Cafe is one of the ways to showcase this “new retail” notion, adding “the cafe is just a demonstration of what can be done (for retail business), and opens up people’s thinking and calls for more collaboration.”
“It’s not about Alibaba wanting to open more cafes, we are not in the restaurant business… it’s about digitalising the footprints of the visitors to an offline store.” said Tung.
Tung added, offline retailers could improve by adopting online data capabilities to link the identity of the customers, and optimise their in-store shopping experience. Once these retailers obtain an understanding of what the customers need online, they can then can allocate the products the customers want in the physical offline store accordingly.
Website: http://www.marketing-interactive.com/tencents-wechat-pay-looks-to-offer-payment-services-in-malaysia/ 


How WeChat Pay became Alipay’s largest rival

How WeChat Pay became Alipay’s largest rival

WeChat Pay, QR code payments, phone payments
Paying for Starbucks coffee. Photo credit: Tencent.
In China, tech giants tend to delineate their influence around certain industries – Alibaba has made ecommerce its calling, while Tencent owns social and gaming. But as their empires continue to expand, overlap is inevitable.
Mobile payments is one of those areas of contention. It’s a lucrative and high-growth market, growing more than 200 percent year-on-year during the fourth quarter of 2016, when it hit US$186 billion. Mobile payments are also a key access point to consumer data, especially in China, where more than half of online sales happen through a smartphone.
Ant Financial, Alibaba’s financial affiliate, has long dominated the market with Alipay, its mobile wallet. Launched in 2009 as one of the earliest mobile payments solutions, Alipay owned about 80 percent of the market for five quarters straight, starting in the third quarter of 2013. But that stronghold is slowly slipping.
WeChat Pay has become Alipay’s biggest competitor.
“Because of WeChat’s traffic and social advantage, in these past two years, WeChat Pay has become Alipay’s biggest competitor,” Wang Pengbo, finance analyst at research firm Analysys, tells Tech in Asia. WeChat Pay, which launched in 2013, is the mobile wallet inside Chinese social messaging app WeChat.
Last month, Analysys published a report on China’s mobile payment market for the fourth quarter of 2016. Alipay had a market share of 54.7 percent;Tenpay – which includes WeChat Pay – came in second with about 37 percent. And while Alipay saw higher transaction amounts – influencing its overall market share – Tenpay had almost double the number of active users.
So how did WeChat Pay catch up? By doubling down on two key areas: social payments and offline retail.

Step one: red packets

Exchanging red packets stuffed with cash is a tradition during Chinese New Year. Photo credit: razihusin / 123RF.
If ecommerce is the backbone of Alipay, social interactions are the driving force behind payments on WeChat.
In particular, WeChat Pay has capitalized on China’s tradition of gifting cash-filled red packets with tremendous success. After debuting its own virtual red packet, which lets users send up to US$29 to fellow WeChat friends, the mobile app saw around 16 million red packets exchanged during Chinese New Year’s Eve in 2014, according to Tencent. A year later, that number jumped to 1 billion.
“WeChat Red Packets originates from one of Tencent’s company customs and broader Cantonese tradition that every manager in the company gives each employee a red packet with a small cash gift on the first work day after the Chinese New Year holiday,” wrote Y Combinator in a blog post last week about WeChat, written in partnership with China Tech Insights, one of Tencent’s internal research teams.
“As the company expanded, it became exhausting for some managers to give out so many Red Packets, so they asked for technical solution to solve the issue – they had no idea that the result would become the prototype of WeChat Red Packet.”

The explosive growth of WeChat red packets: 16 million in 2014 to 14.2 billion in 2017.
Jack Ma called it a “Pearl Harbor Attack” on Alipay, which subsequently launched its own red packet equivalent. Now, Chinese New Year is a time of intense competition between the two companies, both of which have employed a variety of tactics to one-up each other and attract new users, like giving out free red packets and e-coupons. This year, Alipay even added augmented reality functionality to its app, inciting users to chase down red packets a la Pokemon Go.
Thanks to red packets, WeChat Pay was able to kickstart its user base in a short period of time.
But for Alipay, the damage was already done. Thanks to red packets, WeChat Pay was able to grow its user base in a short period of time. By the end of 2014,more than 100 million users had integrated their bank accounts with WeChat Pay and QQ Wallet, the payment system of QQ, another popular messaging system of Tencent.
Today, sending red packets is still a popular use of WeChat Pay, as is transferring money to other WeChat contacts. According to Tencent’s internal data research team, Penguin Intelligence, 87.8 percent of surveyed users in January said they used WeChat Pay to send red packets, followed by peer-to-peer payments at 63 percent.
Alipay AR red envelopes, hongbao
AR red packets by Alipay. Image credit: Tech in Asia.
It’s important to note that neither Alipay nor WeChat Pay make money from peer-to-peer payments, including red packet exchanges between users. But for WeChat, payments between users were crucial to establishing its early user base.
Unlike Alipay, WeChat doesn’t have a robust ecommerce business to fall back on for user acquisition. And once it convinced millions of users to sign up for its mobile wallet, WeChat Pay could now turn its attention to online services – and connecting them to users.

Step two: connect the dots

The timing was perfect. In 2015, China’s online-to-offline (O2O) market exploded: ride-hailing, food delivery, movie-ticket purchasing.
Both Tencent and Alibaba dove in as active investors. Alibaba backed delivery startup Meituan, while Tencent invested in Yelp-like Dianping – though by the end of 2015, the two startups merged into Meituan-Dianping, with both Tencent and Alibaba as stakeholders. That year, Tencent also made two investments in food delivery startup Ele.me, while Alibaba and Ant Financial jointly created and invested in Koubei, a portal for local services that’s accessible via Alipay.
“That’s why Alipay’s ability to control is so strong – [Alibaba] has direct shares or is directly holding these companies,” explains Pengbo. “In reality, it means they can also control this data.” Payments are a “low level entry point,” he says, through which services can be added and data on transactions and consumer behavior can be extracted.
In Dianping’s mobile app, WeChat Pay is featured as a payment option, but not Alipay.
But WeChat Pay was playing the same game. Dianping, Meituan, and Didi – all portfolio companies of Tencent – are permanent fixtures in the social messaging app, linked to the mobile wallet section. In addition, in Dianping’s own mobile app, WeChat Pay is featured as a payment option, but not Alipay. Ant Financial declined to comment.
“The main reason is because Alipay has Koubei,” a spokesperson from Meituan-Dianping tells Tech in Asia, referring to Alipay’s in-app portal for local services. “Koubei is a competitor of Dianping.”
Last year, Alibaba shed its stake in Meituan-Dianping, but poured US$1.25 billion into food delivery app Ele.me. It seems to have paid off – the app features Alipay first as a payment option.
The takeaway is that Tencent and Alibaba might be willing to invest in the same companies, but they want control over payments – and the data generated from them.

Photo montage: Tech in Asia.
Today, both Alipay and WeChat have a myriad online services embedded in their apps: ride-hailing (Didi is also available inside Alipay), utility payments, phone top-up services, movie and train ticket buying, and more. They’ve become ecosystems, extending beyond their respective core businesses in ecommerce, gaming, and social, into other online services – with their payment solution as the underlying foundation.
WeChat occupies 35 percent of time spent on mobile phones in China.
However, it’s worth emphasizing WeChat’s social advantage over Alipay. According to a report published in March by WeChat consulting and research firm China Channel, WeChat occupies 35 percent of time spent on mobile phones in China. It’s a stickier experience than what Alipay offers, which makes its O2O service offering more compelling. In a survey conducted last year by consulting firm McKinsey, the number of WeChat users who shopped through the messaging app was 31 percent – double the figure from 2015.
“Alipay doesn’t have the social component. They don’t have the peer-to-peer component,” Zennon Kapron, director of Kapronasia, an Asia-focused financial industry research and consulting firm, tells Tech in Asia. “That’s really an area that Tencent has a leg-up on Alipay. I think that’s going to become increasingly important.”
As with red packets, Alipay had to play catch up. In 2015, it added a “Friends” component to its app, which let users send each other messages. Last November, it then added a feature called “Circles,” an Instagram-like feature that enabled users to share photos and messages in groups. However, it quicklycame under controversy, as users discovered that only women were allowed to post images in certain Circles, but that any user could leave tips. Lewd photos began circulating. Afterward, Alipay publicly promised to crack down on unsavory content and continue testing its Circles feature.

Step three: expand offline

WeChat Pay, mobile payments, cashless payments
Paying for food with a messaging app. Photo credit: McDonalds.
The latest and ongoing battleground for WeChat Pay and Alipay is offline: brick-and-mortar shops, restaurants, and offline services. Unlike O2O services or companies that have a brand account inside WeChat, these businesses fall outside the app’s ecosystem.
“There’re still hundreds of thousands of merchants that are in the hinterlands of China,” says Zennon. “They could still help [them] get online and be financially included.”
Last year, both Ant Financial and Tencent unveiled generous subsidy programs – dubbed “spring rain plan” and “meteor plan,” respectively – to incentivize third-party developers and service providers to help physical shops adopt WeChat Pay and Alipay. WeChat launched its plan last April, dedicatingUS$14.5 million in subsidies. Alipay’s “spring rain plan” announcement followed close behind in August 2016, promising US$150 million over three years.
There’re still hundreds of thousands of merchants that are in the hinterlands of China.
At brick-and-mortar retailers, it’s not uncommon to see both payments options, either via QR code or using a POS scanner, such as those supplied byLakala.
In January, WeChat launched mini programs, embedded apps that arespecifically designed for offline and low frequency services. For instance, there’s a bus schedule mini program that tells users when the next nearby bus arrives. According to Tencent, it has seen more than 160,000 users since launching two months ago.

Left to right: 1) video streaming site iQiyi’s mini program lets you watch TV shows. 2) find nearby bus stops and when the next ride is.
Mini programs could be a way for WeChat to tie more businesses into its ever-expanding ecosystem – which WeChat Pay could easily piggyback off of. Alipay is also developing its own mini program equivalent, according to a spokesperson at Ant Financial. However, the exact details of what the app’s mini program feature will look like and how users will experience it have not yet been disclosed.

Victory uncertain

To be sure, Alipay is still the leader in China’s mobile payments market. It currently has 450 million monthly active users, according to the company. During Singles’ Day last year, China’s largest shopping holiday, Alipay saw a record of 1 billion transactions in one day.
In addition, Ant Financial offers a robust array of financial services on Alipay, such as Yu’e Bao, its money market fund. According to a report jointly produced by Kapronasia and non-profit Better Than Cash Alliance, Yu’e bao has grown from having “US$29 million in assets under management in 2013 to more than US$117 billion, serving more than 152 million customers three years later.”
It also has its own credit system called Sesame Credit, which incorporates users’ purchasing and spending habits into calculating credit scores.
“Alibaba is an entire ecosystem […] You can’t underestimate them,” says Pengbo, referring to the Chinese tech firm’s experience in servicing shops and businesses, such as those on ecommerce sites Taobao and Tmall. Alibaba also has its own cloud computing arm, Alibaba Cloud, which offers a variety of cloud services to both domestic and international clients.
“If Jack Ma wants to do something, it will probably be deployed in five to 10 years,” he says, emphasizing the billionaire’s focus on playing the long game, not short-term gains.
A vendor in India takes payment via Paytm. A customer can scan the QR code from their phone to initiate the transaction. Photo credit: Paytm founder, Vijay Shekhar Sharma.
Going forward, overseas expansion could become increasingly competitive for the two mobile payments systems. Both Tencent and Alibaba are investing heavily in international startups, especially those in neighboring countries in Asia.
Yesterday, Ant Financial announced its merge with HelloPay Group, which provides the payment solution for Lazada, Southeast Asia’s largest online shopping and selling marketplace. Last year, Alibaba purchased a US$1 billion controlling stake in the Southeast Asian ecommerce company.
Ant Financial also has stakes in Paytm, an Indian payments company, andMynt, a financial services startup in the Philippines. Just a few days ago, Ant Financial also increased its bid for Moneygram, a US-based money transfer firm, to US$1.2 billion.
Tencent’s forays abroad have been no less aggressive, though less payments-focused. Earlier this month, the Chinese tech firm joined eBay and Microsoft in a US$1.4 billion investment round into Indian ecommerce company Flipkart. It’s also the lead investor in Practo, an Indian healthcare startup.
The Chinese tech firm is also active in Thailand, where it has a joint venture with Thailand’s largest e-book provider Ookbee. Earlier this year, the company also rebranded its wholly owned subsidiary, online web portal Sanook, into Tencent Thailand.
As China’s mobile payment market continues to saturate, these nearby markets could offer new opportunities for WeChat Pay and Alipay, especially as online services in ecommerce, fintech, and digital media start to mature. For both companies, it’s another chance to be first.

Website: https://www.techinasia.com/wechat-pay-vs-alipay