'It's like you're back in China': Designer outlet Bicester Village is key to Alipay's expansion in Europe
Alipay's EMEA chief, Rita Liu, told BI at Money2020 Europe: "It's funny you mention Bicester because we know them and half of their visitors altogether are Chinese. If you're there, it's like you're back in China. We see a great demand from the retailers to service specifically the Chinese. It's a really good match."
Alipay, the mobile wallet product spun out of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, announced at the conference last week in Copenhagen that it is launching its payment and marketing platform for retailers in Europe, with a particular focus on UK, Germany, and France.
Alipay will initially focus on serving Chinese tourists travelling overseas who already use Alipay. 117 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad in 2014 and spent $165 billion. Europe is the most popular destination for Chinese tourists outside of Asia, with the UK a popular choice. The average Chinese tourist spends $5,900 on a visit to the UK, according to Alipay.
"Shopping is definitely one of the major reasons why they come to Europe," says Liu. "So shopping is a major area we are addressing - that means shopping malls, outlets, duty free shops."
Liu confirmed to BI that Bicester is a key target in the UK. She says: "It's set to be the second most visit tourist destination for Chinese in the UK. The first one is Buckingham Palace. It's not a sightseeing spot but it's so popular and so famous among Chinese. When they land in London they will be like, where do go? Bicester Village!"
The shopping centre is home to discount stores for high-end brands such as Armani, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Prada, Ralph Lauren. It fits perfectly with a love of luxury goods in China.
Alipay lets people pay for things through their smartphone but also shows them offers, nearest stores, and gives them money management tools.
"You don't need to carry your wallet, you just carry Alipay. We want to bring this experience to them when they travel outside of Europe."
Signing up retailers to accept Alipay is unlikely to be too much of a hard sell for Alipay. As well as the spending figures of Chinese tourists, Alipay can point to its user base in Asia - 450 million active users.
Liu says: "The wallet now is only available to Chinese consumers and Chinese users. The localisation of our wallet outside of China, we're now focusing on Asia and we're targeting 2 billion users in several years. For Europe, we're thinking about it. It's probably down the road but we don't have a clear timeline yet.
"This year for Europe we'll be focusing on this opportunity and getting the merchants and partners on to our platform. From a payment point of view we will get merchants to accept Alipay and also we will invite them to use our marketing platform to better engage with Chinese customers."
Liu wouldn't disclose who and how many retailers have signed up to accept Alipay, saying its "really a starting phase."
She says: "We're a young team in Europe, we just started here last year. The focus of this year is to launch our payment plus marketing platform to the merchants and partners here in Europe. This is driven by the huge opportunity of Chinese travellers coming to Europe and spending here."
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