WeChat Pay Plots Mobile Payments Push into European Markets

May 22, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Ah, the growing Chinese tourist class. It’s been a phenomenon on the rise for some time now, and though the recent trade wars may suggest a chance that it could slow down, there haven’t been any clear signs suggesting that it is. We’ve already seen Alipay make plenty of hay while that sun shined, and now, new reports suggest that its immediate competitor, WeChat Pay, is looking to get its own hay rakes out and move into a new field: Europe.

WeChat Pay has marked Europe as a target for expansion, and according to the latest reports, it’s already behaving accordingly. Outlets offering WeChat Pay as a payment option has already increased three and a half times over the same time last year, and there’s no sign that’s going to slow down.

Naturally, WeChat Pay is heavily Chinese right now, though it’s making moves in other countries beyond the European expansion as well. Reports note that the service has expanded substantially in Dubai, and a new app in India is making progress as well. With Europe accounting for about 11 percent of all Chinese tourism, word from WeChat Pay parent company Tencent notes, a move to expand into Europe should provide the company a lot of extra leverage.

WeChat Pay senior director Dave Fan noted “WeChat Pay is not focused on solving a payment issue, this is about communication. Smart industry solutions, with WeChat Pay at their core, have been brought to millions of offline stores across more than 30 industries in China, and are common throughout users’ daily lives.”

The problem here, however, is that WeChat Pay may be a bit too late to the market. Alipay has been making steady expansion in the European market for some time now, and likely has first-mover advantage anywhere WeChat Pay would have gone. Throw in the potential effects of a US-China trade war potentially winnowing down the Chinese tourist class a bit, and the overall perception of WeChat Pay—the old saying goes “WeChat Pay for pennies, Alipay for big bucks”—and WeChat Pay has some real handicaps in the field.

Still, WeChat Pay is a major part of the Chinese mobile payments market, and expanding its reach may ultimately prove at least some help.