TECHINASIA: China’s tech giants are working hard to make sure that consumers use their phones to pay for things. Today Alipay Wallet, the Alibaba-affiliated mobile wallet, announced it now enables Chinese users to fulfill municipal fees in 12 cities.
Clicking on a new “City Services” tab inside Alipay Wallet draws up a menu with options to book hospital appointments, pay for parking tickets, settle gas and water bills, and even buy gasoline. Users can also look up information regarding traffic and public transportation, and manage other minor bureaucratic tasks.
Ant Financial, the Alibaba-affiliate that owns Alipay, says that it plans to roll out City Services to 50 cities by year’s end.
The new Alipay Wallet features closely follow ones that WeChat introduced last January. The popular chat app rolled out an almost-identical feature set, which the talented team at Grata illustrated in this post.
Alibaba and Tencent aren’t making any money off of these services. But they’re earning something even more precious – user attention. By increasing the amount of time consumers spend in their apps, companies can hopefully increase their chances of steering consumers to the services that actually do help bring in revenues. In the case of Alipay, that’s primarily mobile purchases on Alibaba’s e-commerce properties like Taobao and Tmall.
There’s no app in the US that’s as versatile and ubiquitous as Alipay Wallet or WeChat. This highlights the difference of how China’s internet ecosystem continues to evolve separately from global trends. Facebook, however, is well-positioned to leverage its network of consumers and businesses to drive transactions. In March, the company launched peer-to-peer money transfers through Messenger, where it will likely direct its future commerce efforts.