Ant Financial Services subsidiary Alipay says it will spend the next three years opening up its online payments platform to support the digital transformation of 40 million service providers across China.
“The service sector in China is still in the nascent stages of digital transformation, and that means it has huge untapped potential,” said Ant Financial CEO Simon Hu.
He said consumer demand for digitalised services has been expanding rapidly in Mainland China with the number of searches for lifestyle services within the Alipay app surging 300 per cent last year alone. Currently just 1 million service providers are on the platform.
“Alipay’s success has always depended on the success of our partners, and that is why we believe the only way to best serve consumers is to open up our platform further, so service providers can better tap into consumer demands,” he said.
“Building a one-stop digital lifestyle platform not only creates immense value for our users – it will also play an essential role in accelerating the digital transformation of the service industry and unlocking more growth opportunities.”
Alipay will work with 50,000 independent software vendors to help the service providers digitise their operations, helping service companies in fields including consumer retail, food-and-beverage, hotels-and-accommodations, transportation and medical services.
Hu said that during the coronavirus outbreak, Alipay launched an incentive program for service providers to create mini programs that could help consumers deal with the impact, including providing for the needs of people forced to stay at home and minimising physical contact with service providers. It took just one week for more than 1200 developers to respond and 181 mini programs were created allowing ‘contactless services’ in areas such as grocery delivery, medical and legal advice, logistics and public services. One, offering free medical advice by AliHealth, attracted an average of 700,000 visits daily.
“Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we have also seen how digital technology can be used to help service providers become more agile and respond effectively to the fast-changing market environment,” said Hu.
Another example was Beijing grocery startup Meicai, which connects farmers with consumers and restaurants. A mini program making its delivery services available to Alipay users amid the coronavirus outbreak drew more than 800,000 new users and attracted orders from 80 cities across China.