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Mobile Payments

Alibaba to enter Japan with mobile payment platform in 2018

Thursday 17 August 2017 | 12:58 PM CET

Alibaba intends to introduce in Japan a mobile payment platform in early 2018 to convert cash-reliant shoppers to digital payments.

Ant Financial Services, Alibaba's financial arm in Japan, will offer a version of the Alipay digital payment system tailored for the Japanese market under a new brand. Shoppers will be able to load money into or link a bank account with a dedicated app on their smartphone, and scan QR codes issued by merchants to make a payment. Merchants can also scan codes displayed on a user's phone to the same effect.

Using Alipay itself requires a Chinese bank account but the Japanese version will be compatible with accounts at Japanese banks. The company aims to attract 10 million users within three years. Japanese users will also be able to make payments in China soon after the launch – a feature sure to appeal to the roughly 2.5 million business people and tourists who travel from Japan to China each year

The new service will be usable mostly at Japanese businesses such as electronics sellers, department stores and Lawson convenience stores that already accept Alipay. Alibaba has built up this network in recent years amid a surge in Chinese tourism to Japan, and hopes to expand it from the current 30,000 or so stores to around 50,000 locations by the end of 2017.

A host of upcoming lifestyle features will make the service more valuable as time goes on. Partnerships with cinemas, for example, will let users reserve and pay for movie tickets. Retailers, meanwhile, will be able to offer promotions such as discounts through the platform, according to the company.

China's mobile payment market will be worth some USD 2.24 trillion in 2017, according to a Chinese survey company. By contrast, Japan's market for digital payments such as e-money cards, by contrast, is expected to be worth USD 50.6 billion in 2017, according to the Nomura Research Institute.

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