Amid Coronavirus Disaster, Alipay Looks for New Mobile Payments Ground to Break

March 9, 2020         By: Steven Anderson

It’s almost needless to say at this point, but the same coronavirus impact that’s done a number on supply chains and live concerts worldwide has also hit the mobile payments market. Sure, there’s a case to be made for mobile payments being safer than cash thanks to the lack of handing potentially virus-laden paper back and forth, but with fewer people out and shopping, there’s a hit nonetheless. Alipay, via its parent company Ant Financial, dropped word our way about its plan to get new businesses in the fold, a move which should ameliorate some of the losses taken therein.

Alipay is taking the long view, according to its reports, and staging a three-year effort designed to pull in 40 million service providers throughout China as part of its mobile payments empire. While retailers have made some significant strides on this front, the mobile payments industry hasn’t done quite so well in China’s still comparatively new service industry.

The move is designed to take advantage of the inherent advantages mobile payments can offer, particularly with regards to coronavirus itself. Mobile payments works well with service businesses as it means no cash to handle, which means that services—and goods too—can be brought directly to users’ homes, minimizing the amount of human contact required to, you know, live.

With just a hair over 99 percent of China’s internet users connecting via mobile device in 2029—that’s up from 24 percent back in 2007—it’s clear that the future of China is increasingly available on mobile devices.

That’s reason enough for any business in China—or planning to do business with Chinese people—to have a mobile component. While the impact of coronavirus overall is somewhat questionable—it seems to be doing the bulk of its damage in China itself, though time may change these numbers around—China is sufficiently large a market power to require a little adjustment when something happens therein.

Coronavirus, however, is a big enough market-changer to require some adjustment, and in China, we’re starting to see what happens when people hole up more and go out less. Sure, sometimes that’s more by force than by choice—being welded into an apartment has a way of doing that—but the infrastructure established in the midst of coronavirus horror will likely still have a use in the future.