21 March 2018
Europe Woos China with Wider Alipay and WeChat Pay Acceptance
Germany and the UK lead the way as Euro-retailers set out to make high-spending Chinese visitors welcome.
Alipay and WeChat Pay, two of mainland China's most popular mobile-payment apps, are becoming increasingly accepted throughout Europe. In Germany, for instance, Rossmann – one of the country's leading pharmacy chains – began accepting Alipay earlier this year, while 70 of the outlets operating out of Munich Airport now accept Alipay and WeChat Pay.
In the case of Rossmann, it began accepting Alipay after it saw a surge in sales to mainland tourists, many of whom were buying baby food and milk powder from its outlets, with a view to taking a supply of such items back to China.
With many such products bought at the request of third parties back in China, WeChat is often employed as a means of remotely confirming the volume and variety required. In light of this, Rossmann sees incorporating WeChat Pay into its check-out system as a logical progression of the welcome it already extends to mainland visitors.
Over at Munich Airport, many of the outlets have stolen a march on Rossmann and already have the facility to handle Alipay and WeChat Pay payments, with all such transactions processed by Wirecard, a Munich-based payment-service provider. Following Munich's lead, with the airport the first German retail site to accept WeChat Pay, Frankfurt Airport is said to be considering a similar move.
Frankfurt's decision to follow suit is far from surprising. In the first three months after Alipay was accepted, Munich Airport retailers saw their revenue from Chinese tourists grow by 92%. Given that more than two million Chinese tourists visit Germany every year – largely buying branded luxury goods – the potential revenue hike that accepting their favoured payment options could deliver is clearly colossal.
Reflecting on his own experience to date, Seven Zahn, Managing Director of Eurotrade Munich, the operator behind many of Munich Airport's duty-free outlets, said: "Given the excellent results we achieved with Alipay, it was an easy call to offer WeChat Pay as well.
"In addition, many Chinese visitors to Europe tend to work out their shopping lists well in advance. As a result, it's important for us to have access to the marketing platforms that mobile payment apps open up to us."
WeChat Pay and Alipay have not only penetrated the German market, however. There are clear signs that UK retailers are also stepping up their efforts to facilitate the needs of high-spending Chinese visitors. Camden Market, for instance, said to be London's fourth-most popular tourist attraction, already accepts WeChat Pay.
This is believed to be a concession both to visiting mainlanders and to the British capital's resident Chinese community, many of whom have adopted the social media company's payment platform. This is clearly a smart move, given that the total amount spent by Chinese tourists in the UK is now more than the combined spend of all of the country's US and European visitors. In total, 50% of all tourist luxury purchases in the UK are made by Asian visitors, with China accounting for the largest proportion.
Acknowledging the impact of these visitors, Han Chin, Creative Director of the Studio Collection, a Camden-based designer-clothing boutique, said: "Students and tourists from China and across Asia have flooded into London over recent years.
"Recently, more and more of them have found their way to Camden and, as a retailer, our job has been to provide these customers with a flexible and enjoyable shopping experience. As part of that, accepting WeChat Pay has proved an important way for us to cater to this new visitor demographic."
Overall, Alipay and WeChat Pay have revolutionised the way payments are made in China. While WeChat remains the challenger brand, it claims to already have more than 600 million active monthly users, making it China's most widely used mobile payment app after Alipay.
June Weng, Frankfurt Office