Alipay Plotting a United States Launch

May 11, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Honestly, I never really thought this would happen. We’ve seen a lot of developments take place in the mobile payments landscape of late, and even a couple of departures.

The upcoming arrival of Alipay in the United States, however, could be one of the biggest moves this market has seen since it got started, though it seems more likely that this will be minor at best.

Alipay had actually been in the United States for a while now, if only on a limited level, engaging in trial runs in New York and California. Now, thanks to a deal with First Data Corp., Alipay will be going live throughout the United States and giving users access to online payments and a variety of real-world options as well.

It’s more specifically geared toward Chinese tourists who are making a trip to the U.S., rather than a large-scale effort. Right now, word is that around four million merchants take Alipay, which is comparable to the roughly 4.5 million that take Apple Pay.

Interestingly, the United States actually lags China right now in terms of percentages of customers turning to mobile payments, but that’s expected to change with the arrival of 2018. In fact, some have even suggested that Alipay’s push into the U.S may represent a bit of an awareness campaign for Apple Pay, encouraging retailers to take it and Alipay as well.

The obvious question here is what Alipay is thinking, trying to break into a clearly entrenched market like the United States. But when you consider that the company isn’t really trying to break into the market, but rather allowing its current customers in a completely different market to use the service in a new location, Alipay’s chances of actually competing with the currently-established firms is actually kind of remote. It might pull in some new customers looking for a bit of mystique and novelty, and if that happens, Alipay is that much ahead.

Given that it seems to be mainly looking to give Chinese tourists a new mobile payment option that works in the States, this may not be such a challenge to Apple Pay. Good news for the entrenched, that they won’t have to take on a well-financed newcomer. The chances of getting in on China, however, are that much less.