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Analysis

Apple Pay, AliPay and WeChat Pay.... Why are hotel groups interested in mobile payment

This week, two recent news reports focused on mobile payment solutions. First, Apple, through its CEO, Tim Cook, announced the introduction of an Apple Card to strengthen the Apple Pay mobile payment solution. Second, a few hours later, the management of WeChat Pay, the mobile payment solution integrated into the Chinese application WeChat, unveiled its new strategy called "One for Billion" at a conference with its foreign partners...

Two different technologies and plenty of solutions for mobile payment

Apart from Chinese companies, most of the existing mobile payment solutions are founded on NFC technology, which works thanks to electronic equipment integrated into the smartphone and dedicated apps. The solutions are mainly offered by smartphone manufacturers and it is no surprise that Apple and Samsung, the 2 historic leaders, have the largest number of users among NFC solutions. Considered reliable and secure, this solution requires stores to invest in NFC readers. This is why the Apple Card presented by Tim Cook at the last keynote aims at accelerating the development of Apple Pay. By activating the card with one's smartphone, it will then be possible to pay via any traditional payment card reader. What interest for the user then? Apple is hoping to encourage the use of its card by offering a discount from 1% (in third-party stores) to 2% or even 3% at Apple stores.

Apple's innovation is competing with the 2 Chinese solutions, We Chat Pay and AliPay, which both use QR code technology that is more easily deployed by merchants. It only requires a registration of merchants on both platforms and the use of a specific mobile application. Though no estimation of the number of regular users of the 2 mobile payment solutions has been issued, the large number of users of Alibaba and WeChat have already made them leaders on the market.

AliPay and WeChat Pay are looking for fast international deployment

Alipay is payment solution of Alibaba, often referred to as the Chinese Amazon. Alibaba has developed thanks to a very diversified product portfolio and has been investing for several years in tourism via its dedicated platform Fliggy, an online agency that allows you to book flights, hotels and activities. 

WeChat Pay is the solution of WeChat, a messaging application similar to Whatsapp but which can be customized thanks to an internal store that integrates a wide range of apps (more than 1 million WeChat Applications, some of which offer the same services as Booking, Uber or TripAdvisor...). An innovative model called "Apps in-App" that has spread in China and neighbouring countries. The platform claims more than a billion users in 2019 and aims for international development. At its conference at the end of March, the group unveiled some figures on the exponential growth of its payment solution: a 500% increase in transaction volume and a 700% increase in the number of merchants accepting the payment solution.

The Chinese, leading users of mobile payment solutions worldwide

According to a study (Statista Digital Market Outlook), in 2018, 349 million Chinese use mobile payment solutions compared to 60.1 million in the United States, 12.4 million in the United Kingdom and 5.7 million in France.

Chinese visitors also use mobile payment solutions abroad: in 28% compared to 5% for other nationalities.

Easy check-in and attractiveness for Chinese customers

By 2015, the Marriott group had approached Apple and started deploying the Apple Pay solution in its hotels, with the main advantage of simplifying check-in. In 2017, the American group also created a joint venture with Alibaba, through its Fliggy travel platform, whose short-term objectives were mainly to offer the entire hotel portfolio on Fliggy and to deploy the Alipay solution in a quarter of the properties by the end of the first half of 2018, mainly in Europe and Asia. A strategic operation offering it access to the 650 million users of Alibaba and Fliggy. The two companies are also working together to improve the customer experience through technological innovations.

Read more: A night at the FlyZoo Hotel or how the Chinese conglomerate Alibaba is designing the hotel of the future

ACCOR recently announced a development strategy for Chinese clients called "China 2020" at the beginning of the year. The group had previously committed to a certification program for nearly 250 of its properties by 2020, based on Chinese Optimum Standards, which ensure that Chinese customers are well received. Thanks to the partnership with CTrip, Fliggy's rival travel agency, the company is also gaining visibility. Currently, more than 2,600 of the group's hotels are already sold there. According to Maud Bailly, Chief Digital Officer, the challenge lies in making Chinese customers join the new loyalty program, All for Accor Lives Limitless, which will become a platform offering a range of travel services. 3 million have registered with the loyalty program.

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