I recently started to worry that people might think I have some sort of arrangement with Ant Financial to publicly endorse them, as I’m such a fan-boy. I talk about what Alibaba, Ant Financial and Alipay is doing in every presentation, blog about them a lot and am thoroughly enraptured by their success. However, I have no relationship with Ant Financial, Alipay or Alibaba, other than friendship. There is no commercial relationship. I am just a fan. I wrote the same way a decade ago about the likes of PayPal, Facebook, Amazon and more. If I see a company doing amazing things with technology, I will write about them in a positive way. No contracts or payments required.
I state this upfront, just to ensure that you all know I maintain my neutrality, and also because I’m blogging about them again. I’ve just spent the weekend with the company at the UEFA Nations League Finals in Portugal. Alipay are the official partner, mainly to reinforce their relationships with European merchants who now number “tens of thousands”, tripling in the last year alone.
At the start of the weekend, before the football began, they made an announcement that six European mobile wallets are now QR-enabled by Alipay technologies. The six wallets are Bluecode (Austria), ePassi and Pivo (Finland), momo Packet (Spain), Pagaqui (Portugal) and Vipps (Norway).
Here’s what the press release says:
“When fully realized, users of the six participating European digital wallets will be able to make QR code-based payments with their home apps to local merchants in 10 European countries where those apps are accepted. At the same time, merchants that already accept mobile payments via the six apps in their respective domestic markets will also be able to easily accept payments made by customers of the other countries covered by the collaboration. In addition, Alipay’s Chinese users can also make payments to merchants that accept these wallets.”
I was amused however to hear that my April Fool joke about Visa and Alipay enabling a global QR-code standard had them a little concerned. That joke, shared and believed by many of the readers here, was pretty much aligned with the announcement this weekend. After all, the idea makes perfect sense which is why so many believed the April Fool joke and why they were a little concerned. On the other hand, maybe we should all be a little bit more awake to the opportunity Alipay and QR-codes offer.
For example, a journalist asked me last week what my thoughts were on the roll-out of 100,000 contactless terminals this year to American merchants. I said, “what a waste of money”. The journalist looked at me shocked and asked me to explain.
America made the decision to move to EMV chips a few years ago, and yet Chip & PIN is still hard to find generally across the USA. The USA still use mag stripe and ID in many instances. They even use checks/cheques (I got one the other day). Rolling out thousands of contactless terminals just seems like a waste of time, although maybe it will be good for your Apple Watch with Apple Pay.
Why don’t they use QR codes? No upgrade needed. No new terminals needed. Just a piece of paper or plastic or cardboard with a code on it that can be read by a mobile app. It’s so simple that even the homeless and the street hawkers can use it to take a payment. No Square or iZettle needed. Nothing.
Hmmmm … and if Zelle or Venmo or another mobile wallet decided to do this …
“When fully realized, users of the participating American digital wallet will be able to make QR code-based payments with their home app to local merchants across all of America where that app is accepted. At the same time, merchants that already accept mobile payments via the app will be able to easily accept payments made by Alipay’s Chinese users.”
Oh yes, it’s coming. Just you wait and see.