A Journey To The East: Alipay's Adventure In Japan
摘要： What's the strategy of Alibaba's subsidiary Ant Financial to launch Alipay in Japan, known as a very developed yet conservative market? What progress have Ant Financial made? What are the challenges?
At the Starbuck of 2 Tokyo Narita Airport Terminal 2, a kawaii waitress asked me in standard Japanese: “Is it you Chinese who bring that big ‘worm’ to Japan?” She seemed to be quite puzzled, yet shy at the same time. Although I felt quite embarrassed, I told her: “It’s not a big “worm”, but rather an ‘ant’!” She seemed even more adorable hearing my answer. However, she didn’t catch what I said and asked me back: “Are saying ‘aunt’? Whose ‘aunt’?”
Well, our conversation just ended this way. What an awkward moment!
Curiosity, precaution, as well as misunderstanding… Ant Financial has to face all these types of feelings and attitudes every day in its attempt to go abroad and launch Alipay overseas. While it’s easier to launch Alipay in developing regions such as South Asian countries, it’s quite difficult to launch the service in developed countries such as Japan.
Tokyo Narita Airport is the first important stop Alipay was launched this fall. There are fewer and fewer shops at Narita Airport that don’t support Alipay. Alipay’s LOGO as well as that of UnionPay, VISA, Master Card can already be seen together at the checkout counters of many duty-free shops and restaurants.
Alibaba’s Ant Financial chose to launch Alipay is places Chinese tourists frequent. Besides airport, Ant Financial also chose to launch Alipay in clothes shops (such as UNIQLO and United Arrows), electronics shops (such as LAOX) as well as medicine, cosmetics and retail shops (such as Donki, Kirindo, Kyorin and Welcia). Some shops even set up a special payment window for Alipay users.
According to Ant Financial’s official survey, half of Chinese consumers would pay in cash at YAMADA in the past, while the other half would pay via UnionPay; at present, however, the ratio of Chinese consumers who pay via Alipay, UnionPay and in cash is 3:3:4. At Donki, the ratio of Chinese consumers who pay via Alipay has risen to 30 to 40 per cent, even 60 to 70 per cent when there are discount activities.
Compared to other markets Alipay has entered, Japan is a very special one. Not only relevant laws and regulations are very stricter, but also the general public is accustomed to traditional means of payment and are naturally alert to new means of payment, such as Alipay and Apple Pay.
Therefore, Ant Financial regarded Japan as a very special sample to facilitate its entry in other overseas markets. It is Ant Financial’s wish to improve people’s awareness of new means of payment at overseas markets through the large scale of consumption behavior of Chinese consumers.
“Having Japanese learn from Chinese consumers’ consumption behavior? Sounds like magic, isn’t it? But maybe, it would really work,” a Chinese student who are pursuing study in Japan and doing a part-time job at a supermarket commented. An increasing number of Japanese friends began to turn to him and ask him questions about Alipay recently, especially for the past two months. He even taught two Japanese friends how to download Alipay on their smartphones and register accounts.
“Japan is a very conservative country, so Japanese would fully weigh the advantages and disadvantages before deciding to accept a new thing or not. In this case, Chinese consumers’ consumption behavior and habit will become a vivid example for Ant Financial to promote Alipay in the Japanese market,” Chen Qingyang, head of Japan Business of Ant Financial’s International Business Division, told TMTpost.
A year after Alipay entered Japan, Chen, along with some mascots dressed like Ant Financial’s LOGO, appeared at the Boarding Area of Tokyo Narita Airport and held an offline promotional activity. Although Ant Financial’s LOGO-like mascot seemed out of the tune among three Japanese style mascots, many Japanese who happened to pass by would love to take pictures with the mascot, while Chinese tourists were packed ahead of the advertising board that read “Alipay Red Envelope”.
However, a middle-aged Chinese saleswoman at a duty-free shop tapped on the shoulder of an on-site staff of Ant Financial and asked, while she was rushing to collect the Alipay Red Envelope: “Hey, brother. Must I use Alipay to collect the Red Envelope? Can I use WeChat Wallet?”
What an awkward moment, again! The on-site staff felt quite embarrassed and didn’t know how to answer her questions.
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Liu Peng please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.