eCommerce: Online Payment in China
Most Popular Online Payment Apps in China 2023: Alipay Dominates
China is one of the largest eCommerce markets and online payment providers are an important part of the system. Let's discuss the top mobile payment apps in China.Article by Cihan Uzunoglu | January 31, 2024
Most Popular Online Payment Apps in China 2023: Key Insights
Alipay's Dominance: Alipay, Alibaba's payment app continues to dominate in China with 652.4 million monthly users, far outpacing the competition.
Diverse Payment Landscape: Chinese online shoppers prefer a variety of payment services, with WeChat Pay, Union Pay, jdpay, Apple Pay, and Tenpay following in Alipay’s footsteps.
Global Expansion: Alipay's strategic moves, including an international version launch and partnerships with Visa and Mastercard, provide services for international travelers and offer opportunities for local businesses.
Fast and easy payment apps on online devices are as indispensable for eCommerce as a functioning delivery system. In China, with its high smartphone penetration, transferring money quickly is an important part of everyday life.
What Are the Top Payment Apps in China?
By far the most widely used payment app in China is Alipay, the payment branch of eCommerce giant Alibaba. Founded in 2004, it now has 652.4 million monthly active users (MAU), with a huge advantage over its nearest competitors.
Sunshine Life comes in a distant second with 12.1 million MAU, just ahead of Union Pay with 11.1 million. Bestpay and Huawei Wallet follow with 9.2 and 8.4 million monthly active users, respectively. Yi Wallet has 5.5 million MAU, Baidu Wallet 3.2 million and Moneybox 1.1 million. JD Wallet (0.9 million) and Lakala (0.8 million) have less than one million monthly active users.
The data clearly shows Alipay's dominance, with its closest competitor, Sunshine Life, accounting for less than 2% of its user base. Despite its dominance, the number of Alipay’s MAU has been declining in recent years. Let's take a look at how MAUs have changed over time.
Alipay: MAU peaks at 794 million in 2022
Looking back at the numbers from the past year and a half, the numbers show a peak in June 2022, when Alipay had a total MAU of 794.2 million. Half a year later, the number dropped by more than 100 million to 680.6 million. One month later, the numbers slightly increased to 689.6 million, until they dropped to 652.4 million MAU three months later. Since then, the numbers have been more stable, with the most recent slight increase from April to October 2023 at 655.5 million MAU.
One explanation for the significant drop after June 2022 could be the slow end of the COVID-19 regulations. The strict regulations forced many Chinese consumers to stay indoors and shop online. After the end of these regulations, shoppers could go back to shopping in stores.
Another reason could be the use of other payment options that are not done via app. Online payment services are also widely available in China. See the most common providers below.
Top 10 Online Payment Services in China
In the online payment category, Alipay once again takes the lead among all payment services in China. More precisely, 92% of all participants to the Statista Consumer Insights said that they have used Alipay in the past 12 months.
But this time, Alipay does not have a huge advantage over its competitors. In second place with 85% is the payment service WeChat Pay, the payment option of the Chinese instant messenger. In third place is Union Pay with 45%, followed by a close trio of JDPay (23%), Apple Pay (22%) and Tenpay (19%). Apple Pay is one of two popular non-Chinese payment options. The other international payment provider in China is PayPal, with 11% of consumers saying they have used it in the past year.
The data shows that while Alipay has a huge advantage over its competitors in app payments, Chinese online shoppers tend to use a variety of payment services for online payments, depending on the situation and service they are using.
Future of Digital Payment in China: Expanding Internationally
Amid Alipay's continued dominance in China's digital payments, the company took another step forward by launching an international version of its app during the Alipay 2023 Partner Conference.
With overseas visitors as the targeted audience, especially in light of the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games, the revamped app offers a wealth of travel-oriented services, from language translation to integrated travel conveniences such as hotel bookings and currency rate checks. Alipay has further collaborated with global card networks since 2022, most notably Visa and Mastercard.
This way, the platform ensures that international visitors can easily link their cards and make payments to a wide range of Chinese merchants, making their travel experience more comfortable while creating new opportunities for local shops on Alipay.
Top Payment Apps in China: Closing Remarks
Alipay's market leadership is reflected in the fact that it is the first choice for mobile app payments and online payments in China. On the one hand, this reflects Alibaba's continued dominance in Chinese eCommerce. On the other hand, its recent expansion methods into international customer bases indicate that there is still untapped potential for the company to realize. Will this venture be more successful than what Amazon tried to do in China? ECDB will keep you updated.