WeChat Pay Arrives in France

November 13, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Now this is an interesting development; after months of hearing about Alipay’s seemingly unchallenged push to offer familiar mobile payments operations to the growing Chinese tourist class, we see that WeChat Pay is now stepping into the fray. Thanks to a new connection with BNP Paribas, WeChat Pay is now available to French retailers, and will likely expand from there.

With WeChat Pay, Chinese tourists—an average of 7.4 million such individuals—will be better able to use a familiar payment tool. Right now, the service will be available at two of the primary stores owned by the Galeries Lafayette Group, specifically BHV MARAIS and Galeries Lafayette Haussmann.

The agreement is said to be similar to one between BNP Paribas and Alibaba to bring Alipay to the region. Though WeChat Pay is commonly regarded as a tool used for smaller payments, it still represents a major chunk of the Chinese mobile payments market. Between it and Alipay, the two represent about two thirds—63 percent—of market share in China.

In fact, WeChat not long ago opened a London office, which makes it clear the company had its eye on European business for quite some time. It’s been working with some of the biggest fashion and luxury brands in the region, and trying to get a position in such operations.

BNP Paribas’ global head of cash management Pierre Fersztand commented “We’re now offering the most comprehensive range of payment solutions on the market aimed at the Chinese customers of our retail sector clients.”

That’s a point to keep in mind: “comprehensive range.” While WeChat Pay isn’t exactly a big brand among big spenders in China, it’s better known as a tool for smaller payments. The Chinese internet community even has an adage dating back to September at least: “WeChat Pay for pennies, Alipay for big bucks.”

It’s a point that could hamstring the operation going forward; how much of the Chinese tourist class is pulling out WeChat Pay for anything more than a cup of coffee? Will they actually take it with them when they travel? The problem here isn’t the stores, who need to offer the options just in case. The problem here is with WeChat Pay itself, who may find its image too great a handicap to be useful abroad.