Written by Edwina Chung, Client Director, Racepoint Global London
"Why can’t I use WeChat to pay?”

It’s a question that I frequently hear from Chinese tourists since I moved to the UK two years ago.

Mobile payments have completely transformed our daily life. In fact, according to PwC research, nearly half of the world’s digital payments in 2017 were made in China, through mobile apps such as WeChat Pay (the payment service owned by Tencent) and Alipay (operated by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial). Thanks to the unique integration offered by these Chinese technology giants – blending social, payment and e-commerce functions into a single app – consumers can manage their social lives and finances simultaneously. This has led to rapid cross-generation adoption: Millennials, their parents and Generation Z alike.

Therefore, it’s not too surprising that Chinese consumers want to use the seamless and user-friendly mobile payments that they are used to, no matter whether they are at home or abroad.

Capitalising on Chinese tourism

A record number of Chinese tourists visited the UK in 2017, up 29 percent on the previous year. A separate survey found that over 90 percent of Chinese tourists would like to use mobile payments when travelling. With total spend across all Chinese visitors to the UK surpassed $900 million in 2017 (up a massive 35 percent on 2016), this is a huge and growing market opportunity for UK businesses.

To win over these Chinese tourists, smart businesses should look to offer Alipay or WeChat Pay instead of just cash or card. Popular London tourist hotspot, Camden Market, where one in ten visitors are Chinese, has already led the way when it became the first venue to accept WeChat Pay at the point of sale last year. It’s unlikely to be the last.

Partner up

When it comes to utilising the Chinese mobile payment trends, UK merchants cannot ask for better partners than the two most popular service providers, WeChat pay and Alipay. Both have massive user bases and the potential to unlock significant spending power. Through these partnerships, accepting mobile payments from Chinese tourists becomes much easier and as a result, make a brand far more appealing. The means of setting up a WeChat Pay or Alipay cross-border payment account are increasingly simple – you can easily find a Tencent or Alipay certified payment agency to help set up the accounts, such as Adyen (partially integrated with WeChat) and NihaoPay for WeChat Pay, and China Sales Co for Alipay. For more details of the account setup, you can find below:

Becoming truly “China-ready”

To really win over Chinese consumers, UK businesses of all kinds need to do more than just accept mobile payments. While integration of AliPay and WeChat pay is one thing, communicating in a way that acknowledges Chinese language and culture (something I wrote more about previously) is what will make a business truly ‘China-ready’.

With a tailored communication strategy, targeting Chinese consumers outside of China becomes much more effective. With the trend toward growing Sino-Anglo trade, this is vital to success in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.