Chinese Mobile Payments Leader Alipay Spikes Use in Japan

May 15, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

While security has long been a major issue when it comes to mobile payments, one of the other big problems for the field was use cases. You’ll remember the impact Hannibal Buress had when doing a commercial for Samsung Pay, showing that it could be used pretty much anywhere a credit card was. Alipay, meanwhile, recently took a step toward universal acceptance itself, revealing to us that over 300,000 merchants in Japan accept the mobile payments system.

Alipay reached that point somewhere in the early stages of 2019, which means the number could be even higher at this second but just hasn’t been fully compiled yet. Comparisons to 2018 are where things get really wild, however. Back then, there were about 50,000 merchants accepting Alipay in Japan, which means fully six times that number is now taking the mobile payments tool.

Alipay’s expansion in Japan came at a fortuitous time, or so it seemed; the Japanese government had recently embarked on a campaign to drive greater mobile payments use in the country, a point in which it was oddly lagging much of the rest of the world.

Given the numbers of Chinese tourists who head for Japan, it was likewise a natural fit. Japan is actually one of the most popular tourist destinations in China, so adding Alipay to the lineup in Japan was a natural fit. The numbers bear this point out as well, as Japan was fourth highest among all overseas destinations as measured by Alipay spending.

It’s not surprising that Alipay grew in Japan; the raw numbers make it clear how important Japan is to Alipay’s overall profit margin. What is surprising is how fast it grew. Growth that should have taken years sprung up in the course of months, even weeks, and now suddenly Japan has adopted Alipay at a rate that’s largely unaccountable. What in the world made all these retailers see the value of Alipay so rapidly? Did they see the numbers too?

Whatever it was, it’s clear that Alipay is a big deal in Japan, and in a lot of other places. The growing Chinese tourist class has once again left its mark on the world, and Alipay was there to pick up the check.