Alipay’s mobile payments are skyrocketing, according to a Wall Street Journal article by Juro Osawa. The company’s de facto parent and owner, Alibaba, says that as of October 2014, 54 percent of all of its online payments come through mobile devices.
In a country with half a billion smartphone users, that’s a big deal; and it’s a major improvement over last year’s stats, which saw only 22 percent of all payments done on mobile. It’s hard to pin down exactly what is behind the trend beyond the convenience of mobile payments, but it has surely helped that many smartphone makers have followed Apple’s lead in installing biometric fingerprint-scanning security on their devices, thereby easing consumers’ concerns about security.
In any case, Alipay needs as big a lead as it can manage in this area, as recent policy changes from China’s leadership have paved the way for some competition in the realm of mCommerce. Those changes essentially saw a relaxation of rules requiring deference to the state’s online payment monopoly, UnionPay. That not only opened the door for foreign credit card companies to work in the country outside of UnionPay’s auspices, but it also effectively meant that mCommerce could now be done at the point of sale, as in the Apple Pay mCommerce platform. While that was good news for Apple – which hopes to soon do business via Apple Pay in China – and also spurred UnionPay to start working on its own, similar mCommerce system for Android, those are both poised to offer some serious competition for Alipay next year.
But Alibaba is taking a different angle, opting to consider some sort of partnership with Apple, rather than direct competition. Just what form that partnership will take – if it happens – isn’t yet totally clear, but it is quote obvious that there’s a growing hunger for mCommerce in China, and that’s good news for everybody.