WeChat Pay is infiltrating Singapore mobile payments with eye on Chinese tourists

Grace Yin, operation director of WeChat Pay international business, speaks at the Money 20/20 conference in Singapore on Mar 14, 2018.
Money 20/20

China’s WeChat Pay is looking to cement its position as one of Asia’s largest e-payment providers by bringing its capabilities to Singapore’s ComfortDelGro Taxis.

The Tencent-owned e-payment provider is part of China’s popular WeChat app, which has 1 billion monthly active users worldwide.

Needless to say, WeChat’s huge presence in its home country has accelerated WeChat Pay’s adoption rate among Chinese users.

A recent Nielsen survey found that 65 per cent of Chinese travellers use mobile payments on their trips abroad, more than 6 times that of of non-Chinese travellers.

Meanwhile, 91 per cent are eager to buy more if merchants accepted mobile payments.

Grace Yin, operation director of WeChat Pay international business, told Business Insider in Singapore that the company plans to have more than 100 WeChat Pay-enabled ComfortDelGro taxis “very soon”.

Eventually, the fintech firm hopes to extend its reach to all taxis in Singapore, so Chinese tourists can easily use their WeChat apps to pay for rides here.

Other than taxis, WeChat is also paying attention to retail in Singapore.

Speaking to us at the Money 20/20 conference at Marina Bay Sands, Ms Yin said: “Chinese tourists like to buy… We hope that a lot of stores and shops can support WeChat Pay, to help Chinese tourists buy things in Singapore stores more conveniently.”

In Singapore, more than half of the stores at Changi Airport already support WeChat Pay, she added.

There are also many stores in Marina Bay Sands, such as TWG Tea Salon, which accept WeChat Pay even if they do not have the sign up due to store restrictions.

WeChat’s Singapore fans not getting local wallet – yet

Unlike Malaysia, where WeChat already has a large user base of 20 million, Singapore will not be getting a local WeChat wallet yet.

“The number of WeChat users in a country acts as a basic requirement for WeChat Pay – whether we can do business in that country,” Ms Yin said.

“Now, in China, many people are familiar with WeChat so they will use WeChat Pay. But outside of China, people are not very familiar with WeChat, so we don’t think they will connect their bank cards or even store money in the app.

“We willl need to teach them – users and merchants – about what WeChat is, its functions and how safe and convenient it is,” she said.

As far as expansion in Singapore goes, WeChat Pay’s focus is still on Chinese tourists who already rely on the WeChat app for its many features.

“We are following Chinese tourists, according to what countries they like to visit.” Ms Yin said.

Calling WeChat a “super-app”, she explained that Chinese users spend so much time on it because partners and merchants create good content for their specific consumer markets.

“That is why WeChat is a charming app… the users, merchants and partners give it a new shape in a different country, time and place,” she said.

“What we need to do is to make the basic product perfect and stable,” Ms Yin added.

Currently WeChat is focused on popular holiday destinations such as Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan. But from the later part of the year, they will also be paying more attention to the US, Europe and Australian markets.

“We will provide a standard application programming interface (API) that will let (local merchants) provide WeChat Pay ability in their countries,” Ms Yin said.

“Everyone in this ecosystem can find their position and find their way to earn money.”