Mobile Payments Strike Gold for Chinese Golden Week

October 10, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

For those not familiar, the Golden Week holiday is a seven-day national holiday in China, and there are typically two of these a year at last report. The most recent one just came to an end, and adding up the post-holiday figures, Golden Week proved an excellent one for Alipay, who reported some big new numbers for Chinese travelers spending overseas with the week off.

There were some positively massive increases in overseas spending, in fact, with Alipay reporting that the Sydney Airport in Australia saw spending levels through Alipay that were 55 times higher than last year. In Osaka’s Dotonbori zone, the Alipay spending was up fully 70 times over last year. Just to top it off, the UK’s Bicester Village outlet shopping center in the UK saw levels climb to 90 times the previous year’s figures.

Those were just some of the high points; while other locations didn’t see such pronounced gains, locations from Bangkok to Paris to Toronto all saw some numbers jump.

Regardless of the figures, one thing was clear: Chinese customers are increasingly comfortable with using mobile payments systems via their smartphones. Word from Nielsen actually notes that 90 percent of Chinese users will turn to a smartphone first to make payments. Most of these users will turn to either Alipay—who has around half of the country’s mobile payment market sewn up—or WeChat Pay, who holds fully 39 percent of the market. The remaining 11 percent is split between a host of competitors, from big names like Apple Pay to comparatively smaller entries.

The fact that we can express gains here in terms of thousands of percents is impressive enough, but the question is, what do the raw numbers look like? Why are we hearing this only in terms of percentage gain? As Al Bundy once remarked about his failed shoe hotline’s lack of callers on “Married With Children”: “None today! Tomorrow, twice as many!” Basically, you can have a massive percentage increase over a trivial base, and the end result is you’ve just made terrible numbers look amazing.

Whether Alipay’s seeing numbers go from $10 of spending to $900 and calling it a success, or seeing truly amazing numbers, the end result is the same: interest in the payment platform is definitely gaining.