Chinese consumers represent biggest growth opportunity for Canadian businesses, says Alipay

Published: June 21, 2018 

Chinese visitors to Canada contribute more than $1 billion USD to the Canadian economy, supporting an estimated 7,400 jobs, according to Statistics Canada. It’s predicted that by end of 2018, Canada will host a record number of Chinese tourists, surpassing 2017’s record of nearly 700,000. And Canada has set a goal of doubling this number by 2021. When it comes to making purchases, these visitors are used to and expect frictionless buying experiences. According to a new Nielsen report, 93 per cent of Chinese tourists would use mobile payments overseas if given the option.

To learn more about the opportunities between the Chinese consumer and Canadian merchants and the future of payments we sat down with Rita Liu, Head of Canada for Alipay to hear her reflections on this subject.

You are only two months into your role as Head of Canada for Alipay, and you held a similar role in Europe, overseeing business development, operations and marketing activities for the region. Why has Alipay created this role for you now in Canada?

I’m focused on Canada for several reasons. Last year, Alibaba hosted its first Canadian Gateway ‘17 conference, in Toronto. Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke, as did several representatives from Canada’s travel, tourism, retail and packaged goods industries.

One of our main conference objectives was to introduce Alibaba’s services to the Canadian business community and discuss how Alibaba can help Canadian businesses better target and sell to Chinese customers. It is about helping Canadian merchants sell more to the rapidly expanding Chinese marketplace by making it easier for Chinese travelers to buy and pay for goods in Canada. We do this in-part through our various online marketplaces such as Alibaba’s Tmall and Tmall Global (business-to-customer online retailing), and solutions such as Alipay – the world’s largest mobile payment platform, which caters to both online and brick and mortar shoppers.

The conference was a success and drew over 3,000 attendees, echoing a strong demand to cater more to Chinese consumers and build stronger ties to promote Canada to the Chinese tourism market. Given the demand and interest, and the fact that Canada and China have both designated 2018 to be the Canada-China Year of Tourism, the time seemed right to have a dedicated team here in Canada to better support our partners and merchants.

What can Canadians look forward to in terms of the future of payments?

As you know, Alipay is very focused on the Chinese consumer and because of this it’s on track to influence the future of payments in Canada. What’s happening with payments in China is quite fascinating. The Alipay app is rapidly changing how people pay with the latest example being our very own “smile to pay” service, which is receiving widespread attention.

Keep in mind that as the payments experience in China becomes more seamless, payments in Canada and everywhere around the world need to become more seamless too. What we’ve seen in China is that payment methods, like Alipay, are merely the start of the payment journey.  Besides facilitating payments with Alipay, users gain access to more services, such as the ability to easily transfer money to other app members, share or split bills among them using QR codes, book movie tickets, hail rides, order takeout and search for nearby merchants’ coupons and deals. The app has grown from being “only” a payment system into a lifestyle super app to the benefit of merchants and the entire payments industry.

What excited you about attending and speaking at the Payments Canada’s SUMMIT?

Witnessing the level of awareness amongst many of  the industry players – merchants, property owners, government agencies – of how lucrative the Chinese market is excited me because we can help them connect with this growing consumer group and benefit from this group’s spending power.

About Rita Liu

Rita joined Alipay in 2010 and was initially responsible for driving partnerships with major Chinese banks. In 2011, she became one of the founding members of the Alipay International Business department and has since held responsibility for business development and partnerships in Asia, the US and Europe. From 2015 to 2017, Rita was based in London while serving as Head of EMEA for Alipay, overseeing the company’s overall business in the region, including business development, operations and marketing activities. She has recently been named Head of Canada, with responsibility for building the firm’s business and strategy in Canada. Before joining Alipay, Rita was a business development manager at Americ.