Alipay and UnionPay's expansion into Western markets

Written by James Parker || August 22 2016

The recent announcement that Canadian merchants will now accept UnionPay’s mobile QuickPass payment, along with Ingenico partnering with Alipay to provide mobile payments in Europe, highlight that huge strides are being made by both UnionPay and Alipay to infiltrate Western markets and that these efforts are being supported by the Western payments industry.

UnionPay’s mobile QuickPass allows users to make quick and safe “tap-and-go” payments with their QuickPass-enabled smartphones in various restaurants, hotels, retail outlets, supermarkets and convenience stores. Similarly, Ingenico’s partnership with Alipay will allow users to pay conveniently using their Alipay e-wallet. As Ingenico states, partnering with Alipay, “provide[s] acquirers and respective retailers in Europe with a complete online and in-store payment solution, tailored to the Chinese outbound travellers coming to Europe.” Soon though these payment options may not only be used by Chinese travellers, but also by local citizens.

Mobile payments are expanding in Europe and, according to Mobile Payments World, 40% of individuals saying that they have used a mobile payment in 2016, up from 33% in 2015. Alongside this, Canada has a large “tap-and-go” payments infrastructure already in place and Moneris, Canada’s largest card payment processor, announced in 2015 that 85% of their terminals were contactless-capable and able to accept mobile payments. This is in contrast to the USA where adoption of mobile payments has remained static at 42%. Therefore, it is clear why Alipay and UnionPay have chosen Europe and Canada respectively to focus their most recent attempts to expand their markets.

In the case of Alipay, their partnership with Ingenico is just one part of their attempts to expand into international markets and as Ant Financial President Eric Jung notes, "globalization is Ant Financial's most important strategy for the coming decade." This is underlined by the recent partnership between Alipay and Uber, allowing Alipay users to pay their Uber fares using Alipay in any of the 68 countries where Uber operates. Along with forging links with German payments provider Wirecard, which began to support Alipay payments in Europe.

Furthermore, UnionPay’s QuickPass has been expanding into other regions such as Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. As in the case of AliPay, this shows that UnionPay are trying to infiltrate not only its traditional Asian markets, but Western markets. Song Yumin, Chinese Consul-General to Melbourne, has previously stated that UnionPay cards have become more and more popular in Australia with the increasingly close cooperation between Australia and China and introduction into Canada will surely begin UnionPay’s proliferation into North America. UnionPay themselves argues that QuickPass is “quick, convenient, and safe, and therefore is gaining popularity among overseas merchants and cardholders.”

It seems clear, therefore, that the payments industry in Europe and Canada is willing to innovate and provide modern, mobile, payment solutions that cater to truly global citizens. More importantly though, these announcements highlight that Chinese mobile payments providers see opportunities to expand their solutions into Western markets and that their efforts are being supported by the payments industry. At this point in time Alipay and UnionPay might be catering their services towards Chinese tourists, but it seems clear that both these companies have aspirations to be a prominent, global, payments service and these announcements are a stepping stone towards that goal.