Jack Ma’s Alipay takes on WeChat’s ‘instant apps’

Jack Ma’s Alipay takes on WeChat’s ‘instant apps’

China's central bank considering tough regulations on online payments
Photo credit: Ant Financial.
In China, smartphone apps have never felt more obsolete. WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, hosts an overwhelming number of services inside itself: food delivery, ride-hailing, live streaming, and more. Now, China’s leading mobile payment app, Alipay, is trying to kill off apps too.
Alipay is pushing out “mini programs,” lightweight apps that live inside Alipay itself.
Like WeChat’s own instant apps, which launched in January, Alipay’s don’t require users to download anything. Instead, people scan a QR code to access them.
Here’s Ofo’s bike-sharing instant app in Alipay. You can’t open it in WeChat or a web browser.

Alipay – run by Alibaba spin-off Ant Financial – opened up its mini programs system to developers at the end of August. According to an Ant Financial spokesperson, they will become accessible to users “soon” but declined to specify when or how.
For WeChat, mini programs are a way to rope in the plethora of offline services and payment scenarios still outside the ever-expanding WeChat-verse. Bus stops and shops, for instance, can roll out their own mini programs, which can then tie into customer loyalty programs and marketing campaigns in WeChat.


Alipay, which is locked in a fierce battle with WeChat Pay, is now playing catch up with mini programs. According to research firm Analysys, Alipay captured 53.7 percent of China’s mobile payment market in this year’s first quarter. Tencent’s equivalent was in second at 39.5 percent.
Chasing after WeChat has had its own advantages, though – Alipay was able to copy parts of WeChat’s mini program source code. In August, the company was caught and apologized after someone found the name of a WeChat developer left inside Alipay’s development files.
Alipay captured 53.7 percent of China’s mobile payment market in Q1 2017.
Like WeChat’s system, Alipay’s instant apps will make it easier for more services to join the app’s ecosystem. Already, the app has services embedded inside its dashboard, such as car rentals. Mini programs could make it easier for more companies and products to become part of Alipay without bogging down the app with more icons and menus.
Though Alibaba’s mobile wallet app lacks the sticky social component of WeChat, it does offer a wider range of more developed financial products. Its money market fund Yu’e Bao has accumulated about 325 million Chinese users since launching in 2013. Tencent is beta testing its own version called Lingqiantong, which lets users earn interest from their WeChat Pay balance.
Alipay mini program developers will be able to tap into Sesame Credit, Ant Financial’s credit rating system. Already, there are a multitude of credit-based services inside Alipay, such as deposit-free bike rentals and a virtual credit card. Through Alipay’s mini programs, more services could waive deposits – especially in the hospitality industry – or offer new credit-based products.
Tencent is also testing its own credit system, which takes into account social connections, consumption behavior, security, wealth, and compliance, according to Chinese media reports.
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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

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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
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