Alipay Now an Option for Every South Korean Starbucks

February 14, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

You’ve got to hand it to Ant Financial for the breakneck pace at which it’s expanding Alipay’s reach and versatility. Really, you do; this company is straight-up everywhere now, and there are a rapidly declining number of places that you won’t find Alipay as at least an option. Starbucks was a major force of worldwide acceptance of Alipay, and now, for all of those Chinese tourists heading to the Olympics—and beyond—South Korea is now a little more welcoming as Starbucks there takes Alipay.

Thanks to the new measure, Chinese tourists visiting Starbucks branches in Korea—an event that happens with some regularity according to Alipay Korea general manager Danny Chung—will be able to use their mobile payment method of choice, and in renminbi as well.

With the arrival of the Winter Olympics, such a move was likely particularly welcome and likely also to mean greater profits for area merchants. Given that around 400 merchants in the Gangreung and Pyeongchang areas both accept Alipay, adding Starbucks to the roster was a move that made sense. Those on hand for the Olympics are also likely to be the well-heeled and big-spending sort of Chinese tourist that’s also down for Starbucks most anywhere they happen to go.

Alipay presence in South Korea isn’t exactly new; merchants there have been starting to accept Alipay since 2015. It’s got a presence in department stores, convenience stores, duty-free shops and even coffee shops that aren’t Starbucks.

The expansion of Alipay has been dizzying by most every applicable standard. It’s stepped into different industries, even different countries, with almost equal aplomb. While stepping into South Korean Starbucks locations is a natural move—we’ve been hearing about Starbucks / Alipay connections for some time now before this—the timing is especially noteworthy. Right as the Winter Olympics start, Alipay makes a move to make it that much easier to get Starbucks when you’re a Chinese tourist in the country. That just fits together perfectly.

Naturally, the impact of this move will be felt long after the Olympics have closed, as Chinese tourists continue to arrive in South Korea. For now, however, Starbucks is likely to see a little extra business out of its South Korea locations, more than it already would have seen from an Olympic bump.