Alipay, the world’s leading mobile payment platform operated by Ant Financial Services Group, has announced a three-year plan to further open up its platform to support the digital transformation of 40 million service providers across China.
The plan marks a major milestone as Alipay continues to strengthen its positioning in China, evolving from a platform that provides inclusive financial services to an open, vibrant digital ecosystem that offers users a gateway into a comprehensive digital lifestyle, right in the palms of their hands.
“The service sector in China is still in the nascent stages of digital transformation, and that means it has huge untapped potential,” said Ant Financial Chief Executive Officer Simon Hu. “Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we have also seen how digital technology can be used to help service providers become more agile and respond effectively to the fast-changing market environment.”
“Building a one-stop digital lifestyle platform not only creates immense value for our users – it will also play an essential role in accelerating the digital transformation of the service industry and unlocking more growth opportunities,” Simon said.
Amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Alipay introduced an incentive program that encourages developers to create mini programs that can help users cope with the impact, including by fulfilling various lifestyle needs of those who are living and working from home, while minimizing the need for physical contact with service providers.
Within a week, more than 1,200 developers responded, creating 181 mini programs on the Alipay app that enabled “contactless” services across China, including grocery deliveries, legal and medical advice, logistics, and public services. For example, a mini program providing free medical consultation offered by AliHealth received 700,000 daily visits on average.
Beijing-based grocery startup Meicai, which connects farmers with consumers and restaurants, also launched a mini program to make its delivery services available to Alipay users amid the Covid-19 outbreak. In one week, it attracted more than 800,000 new users and orders poured in from across 80 cities in China.
According to the China Internet Network Information Center, 99.1% of Chinese internet users went online via mobile devices in 2019, compared with just 24% in 2007. This increased penetration of mobile phone use in China has paved the way for the domestic service sector to begin adopting digital technologies.
China’s service industry contributed to 59.4 percent of GDP growth in 2019, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Despite their importance to the economy, Chinese service providers still rely heavily on traditional brick-and-mortar business models, and have yet to fully embrace digital technology to boost efficiency and improve the customer experience.
Meanwhile, consumer demand for digitalized services has been expanding rapidly. In 2019 alone, the number of searches for lifestyle services within the Alipay app has increased 300% compared with 2018.
“Since the very beginning, Alipay’s success has always depended on the success of our partners, and that is why we believe the only way to best serve consumers is to open up our platform further, so service providers can better tap into consumer demands,” Simon said.
As part of the opening up, Alipay will be updated so that service providers can tap into traffic within the app, while AI-driven incentive programs will encourage service providers to consistently improve the customer experience. Users will also be able to access personalized recommendations from newly added service sections. With these initiatives in place, service providers will be able to enhance their distribution efficiency in Alipay.
Under the three-year plan, Alipay will also work with 50,000 Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to help 40 million service providers digitalize their operations, increase efficiency and reach more customers by 2030, up from more than one million currently on the platform. ISVs are companies that package Alipay’s technologies into solutions to meet the needs of specific industries and use cases, ranging from consumer retail, food-and-beverage, hotels-and-accommodations, transportation to medical services.
Alipay supports a full-service delivery cycle, including payment, anti-fraud, fund management, smart marketing, customer insight, acquisition, retention and engagement. These technology products and services were developed and refined in inclusive finance use cases and come with financial grade safety, reliability and performance. In addition, service providers can leverage Alipay mini programs, which can run on all major platforms within the Alibaba ecosystem such as Tmall and AutoNavi, to reach a much broader user base. These factors make Alipay’s open platform not just a one-stop choice for consumers, but also for service providers.