Alipay Entering into South Korean Market

During the Lunar New Year, more than 100,000 Chinese visited South Korea. The way people shop in a duty free shop, or in a convenience store is quite different than before: They pay with the world’s well-known Chinese mobile payment, Alipay, the most successful case of Fintech in the world. In Seoul main streets and on Korean internet sites, we can easily find advertisements of Alipay. China UnionPay already entered into the South Korean market, and even a brand of my credit card issued in South Korea is UnionPay. They partner with BC Card, South Korea’s card issuer and they have been expanding their business in South Korea. China’s payment has entered into South Korean market in earnest and South Korean players have been getting into the game. T-money, the largest prepaid card player in South Korea and Hana Bank, the fourth largest bank in South Korea partnered with Alipay. As an example, Chinese tourists in South Korea can pay back to Alipay’s account after using T-money for foreigners if they have any remaining credits. T-money is available not only transportation including metro, bus and taxi but also for payments at convenience stores and other selected shops. Also, T-money has introduced a new service for domestic users, providing compensation system for Mobile T-money when a user loses a phone, providing a safer environment for T-money users. For Hana Bank, they haven’t started a service with Alipay but it will be launched soon. After launching a new service with Alipay, Chinese tourists will be able to pay with Alipay at merchants of Hana Bank. In other words, they can use Alipay in broader places like orthopaedics, nail salon and hair salon than what T-money service offers. The similar case has been seen in South Korea and Japan. Cashbee, South Korea’s mobile payment card partnered with Japan’s three major MNOs, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank. Japanese tourists can now pay with their smartphone in South Korea after installing a dedicated application. A wave of Fintech has come to Korea. The country is attempting a different approach with the use of Fintech. Some players already recognized their current approach is not acceptable anymore hence it is the time to shift their strategy for future growth. Payments area has been getting global and more attractive for users. For example, Alipay gives 4.5% interest when a user deposits money. Yes, it’s attractive. However, players should evaluate what is important for their future growth without tapping into the current trend. Establishing an initiative for business growth should be the overriding concern now amid mounting attention to Fintech.

E-money in Japan and South Korea

Japan and South Korea are among the leading countries which have tried to spread the use of e-money from an early stage. Due to the different backgrounds they have, they have been going the separate paths for e-money growth. In recent years, the Japanese e-money market has emerged as one of the important payment methods. Especially with the consumption tax rise from April 2014, the e-money market has received more attention because the usage of loose coins would increase due to the consumption tax rise from 5% to 8%. On the other hand, in South Korea, the e-money market growth has been sluggish because of the heavy usage of credit cards and check cards. Although there are two major e-money providers, T-money and Cashbee, South Korean credit cards and check cards are available for not only big purchases but also for small purchases so consumers do not recognize the need for e-money. In Japan, Suica, e-money from East Japan Railway Company and nanaco, e-money from Seven & I Holdings, exceeded 100 million transactions for a month in March 2014. It is the first time for nanaco to exceed 100 million transactions. All e-money providers have said that transaction volume has been growing. Celent believes that this trend will continue in the future by improving customer experience although one of the obstacles in the way of the e-money market growth has been considered the lack of the customer experience. In South Korea, Kakao Talk, one of the most popular social networking services in South Korea announced that they will launch a mobile wallet service called “Bank Wallet Kakao” in the first half of this year. At the very beginning, this will be used for customer to customer (C2C) payment and will expand to business to customer (B2C) payment. For both countries, the e-money market has entered a new phase although the reasons for growth are different. From the case studies of both countries, we can learn that e-money has diverse potential. I believe that e-money will create a new value and become a more accepted payment method.