Do you want a shortcut to more Chinese tourist sales at your store? According to research conducted by Nielsen in partnership with Alipay, introducing Chinese mobile payments might just be what you’re looking for.

In fact, among Nielsen’s survey respondents, 91 percent said that overseas merchant support of Chinese mobile payment platforms might increase their desire to purchase more goods or services. The way the insights are phrased even implies that implementing Chinese mobile payments doesn’t only drive more sales, but also larger sales volumes per purchase.

With all the recent news about Chinese mobile payments expanding around the world, it should perhaps not come as a surprise that it’s a growing phenomenon and that usage among global Chinese travelers is growing. That’s bad news for UnionPay, which until recently was the dominant player in Chinese overseas shopping, whether directly through credit card purchases or indirectly through withdrawals at ATMs around the world. In response to the growing competition from mobile players such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, UnionPay is beginning to reorient itself according to mobile-first consumer preferences.

Image: Nielsen/Alipay

But things may not be changing as fast as the flood of news about mobile payments would imply. According to Nielsen, cash payments, bank card payments, and mobile payment usage abroad stand at 90 percent, 82 percent, and 65 percent respectively. In other words, cash and card purchases still represent the lion’s share of Chinese tourists’ shopping. Even so, the 65 percent usage rate of mobile payments is several magnitudes higher than the 11 percent usage rate among non-Chinese tourists.

As a total of all payments, the research found that 28 percent of payments abroad were completed through mobile payment providers in 2017, up from 23 percent two years earlier.

Image: Nielsen/Alipay

The importance of providing “Chinese-friendly” payment options (whether mobile payments, UnionPay, or otherwise) is further underlined by the most important factors affecting Chinese tourists’ shopping overseas. Among Chinese travelers, discounts and payment methods provided are tied as the most important factors—whereas neither of these two factors even break into the top-three most important factors for non-Chinese tourists. No wonder Chinese consumers are upset over Heathrow’s Dufry duty-free stores’ unfair discount policy toward Chinese customers.

Image: Nielsen/Alipay

So, we know that Chinese tourists use, and prefer, mobile payments when on vacation abroad. But why? Nielsen’s research found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the convenience, speed, and familiarity of mobile payments was the most-quoted reason for preferring mobile payments.

However, the second most important reason may come as a surprise to some: pride for Chinese brands. It does fit in line with the narrative of rising Chinese nationalism under Xi Jinping and as Jing Travel has previously pointed out, the importance of nationalism as a guide in Chinese outbound tourism.

In this particular case, it may just be well-directed pride. After all, Chinese adoption of mobile payment technology is so widespread that it’s a genuinely important thing for international retailers to consider implementing even outside China. The same still can’t be said for global competitors such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

In a market where it can often be difficult to understand how to best reach and engage prospective Chinese customers shopping abroad, it’s nice to know that there’s at least one straightforward thing you can do: implement Chinese mobile payments—whether Alipay or WeChat Pay. It’s not a one-step solution for attracting more Chinese consumers, but it is demonstrably something that Chinese consumers prefer. So, why not? At least, that’s what Alipay wants retailers to ask with its Nielsen research.


Travel Tech & Social Media