A Chinese family trundles out of a taxi at Central Park in New York and the mom scans the driver’s QR code with her phone. A hungry international student in Toronto stretches out at his desk, pulls out his phone, and orders dinner. Two sophisticates update their wardrobes with pieces from Gucci’s latest lineup at Holt Renfrew and whip out their phones at the cashier. None of them are paying with a credit card.

What’s the big deal with WeChat Pay and Alipay?

China is now a near-cashless society. A resident in China can order lunch, pay the dogsitter, and give money to the busker at the the metro station. But trends aren’t stationary. They bleed across borders. The burgeoning Chinese diaspora bring both their large spending power and their payment preferences when they come to North America.

Airlines are quick adopters of anything that helps them capture the enormous spending power of Chinese travelers. In 2017, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines became the first non-Chinese airline to accept WeChat Pay. Finnair followed suit three months later. Then Air France. Then Air Canada.

Now, luxury retailers that cater to the affluent Chinese traveler can’t sign up for WeChat Pay and Alipay fast enough. That includes auto dealers, casinos in Las Vegas, even Bubba Gump Shrimp on San Francisco’s Pier 39. Even Vancouver’s municipal-owned parking provider accepts payment through WeChat Pay and Alipay. The question isn’t whether you should accept mobile payments; it’s how quickly you can get those systems set up. Over 90% of Chinese tourists prefer mobile payments and 40% say the payment methods accepted influence their purchasing decisions.

WeChat Pay and Alipay makes life simpler for Chinese consumers

Imagine going on vacation and not being able to use your credit card. The frustration Chinese consumers experience when stores don’t accept mobile payments is similar. In China, people may have credit cards but don’t use them. Cash is akin to VHS tapes. On top of the desire for convenience, mobile payments give consumers a sense of familiarity.

WeChat Pay and Alipay are also not part of the $50,000 USD annual capital transfer limit that the Chinese government imposes on Chinese nationals. Using mobile payments allows consumers to spend their limited capital on life’s essentials, such as rent and for students, tuition.

Wechat Pay and Alipay as marketing tools

These aren’t just payment channels; they’re also marketing tools that help brands leverage Chinese social media.

Brands can create ads that appear on the payment confirmation page when a consumer purchases an item through WeChat Pay. On Alipay, there’s a Discover feature similar to Yelp’s that helps the consumer discover retailers around them that accept Alipay. Accepting mobile payments doesn’t just facilitate purchases; it grows your market and helps you access consumers who may not have been aware of you before.

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multicultural marketing