Indeed, Alipay has never stopped to compete with WeChat.
In the wave set off by WeChat’s “Mini Program”, featuring both the fanatic agitation of "traffic dividend" and the helpless judgment of "limited scenario", Alipay has always seemed to be a "bystander", thought it is also a key gateway to the Chinese Internet world. Previously, TMTPost exclusively revealed during this year’s Spring Festival that Alipay would soon launch its own “Mini Program”-like product. However, in the twinkling of an eye, it is already early summer, but we still didn’t see any trace of Alipay’s any move.
Recently, however, TMTPost found that Alipay’s similar product would be officially launched near the end of May. If nothing prevents, Alipay’s killer product “AR Open Platform” will be launched together with its “Mini Program”-like product.
“We started to cooperate with Alipay’s AR team this March. They did a research over different AR products and settled on a few ones. So we are asked to help out and explore daily user scenarios where AR technology can be applied,” an insider revealed TMTPost.
In other words, Alipay is planning to open access its AR recognition technology to ISVs and business brands. Therefore, its positioning is quite different from “WeChat Mini Program”’s. In this case, “Scan & AR” is only a gateway to Alipay’s giant AR platform. When users scan and identify a product, a LOGO or an object, it’s for different ISVs to decide what specific functions they want to achieve.
Besides AR Open Platform and “Mini Program”-like product, the insider also revealed to TMTPost that Alipay’s “notorious” “Life Circle”, which was launched and soon withdrawn for concerns over spreading obscene information, was going to be adjusted to partly serve its community function. “Several teams have been negotiating over details, so it might be launched a little later,” the insider said.
As a matter of fact, Alipay has already been testing its AR Open Platform. In the opening ad of a recent episode of U Can U BIBI Season 4, audience were encouraged to scan Head & Shoulders’ LOGO and collect discount vouchers.
Ai Li, a debating contestant in U Can U BIBI Season 4, was encouraging the audience to scan Head & Shoulders’ LOGO and collect discount vouchers.
In this case example, while Alipay provides the AR Open Platform and allow users to scan and identity Head & Shoulders’ LOGO, it’s for Head & Shoulders to decide what comes next: an H5 page, Alipay Mini Program page, etc.
Why is Alipay so keen in AR?
In fact, Alipay is quite an early entrant in the AR sector. When Pokemon Go swept all over the world last year, Alipay already launched its own various AR & AR functions. For example, users could open their Alipay APP and scan the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival, or “Fu” (the Chinese character for happiness) during the Spring Festival and collect red envelopes or discount vouchers.
Although several bugs came up during these activities, a large number of users were still quite attracted to the idea AR. Statistics suggest that 168 million users participated in the “Fu” collecting activity, though many of them cheated, since they found the loopholes in the activity and replace real objects with photos.
Last December, Alipay launched its LBS-based AR Red Envelope function.
Within a year, Alipay managed to not only spread the idea of “AR & Scan” to ordinary users and improve its algorithm at the same time, but also demonstrated its ability to serve ordinary users and business owners.
To be specific, Alipay wants to spread the idea of “AR &Scan” to a degree that it is as popular and normal as QR code scanning. Imagine the huge ambition of Alipay.
Besides, Alipay has gradually attempted to demonstrate its ability to serve business owners. Whether through LBS-based or Scan & AR, Alipay has been making attempt to integrate brands, discount vouchers and red envelopes to AR games. To a degree, Alipay’s AR Open Platform will certainly be embraced by business owners.
In other words, Alipay’s AR Open Platform may bear the same as Ant Financial. Today, Ant Financial has already opened various accesses to its business owners, including mobile payment, marketing and voucher, etc. For internet giants, it’s better to open the platform to various business owners than do everything by oneself.
How will the future Mini Program competition look like?
Although many industry analysts have pointed out that the core of WeChat’s “Mini Program” lies in “connecting offline scenarios”, WeChat “Mini Program”’s several updates and related startup projects have both demonstrated that “online scenarios” remain the major battleground.
How come? Aren’t they aware of the potential of “Mini Program”? “WeChat did attempt to connect offline scenarios via Mini Program, but it didn't have the ability to set up QR codes offline. Therefore, it turned to business owners for help,” an industry practitioner commented in a previous report on TMTPost.
For example, WeChat Mini Program has teamed up with various offline business stores and shared bike platforms to set up QR codes, offline gateway to its Mini Program. In fact, accessibility to users is key to the development of Mini Program.
To put it simply, at first, WeChat attempted to expand the offline user scenario of Mini Program, but it overestimated developers’ ability. After all, internet practitioners are better at product development and technology than grabbing offline scenarios or setting up QR codes. This is why WeChat gradually lowered the difficulty to develop Mini Programs, allowed WeChat Official Account owners to attach Mini Programs to their OAs, allowed users to find recent Mini Programs through the latest update. WeChat’s sole goal, however, is to improve the accessibility of WeChat Mini Programs.
From this perspective, Alipay attempts to surpass WeChat by better getting access to ordinary users.
Through “Scan & AR”, Alipay avoids setting up QR codes in offline user scenarios. Instead, Alipay could provide its Mini Program service through existing objects or images, such as product packages, LOGOs, etc. Another industry insider also revealed to TMTPost that Alipay had already made it possible for users to scan an object or image and go to a related Mini Program.
In this battleground over “Mini Program” between Alipay and WeChat, while WeChat possesses huge traffic thanks to its intense social network and high user retention rate, Alipay has better access to business owners thanks to its enterprise gene. To prevail, Alipay has to make the best use of its advantages and bypass the disadvantages and polish its “Mini Program”-like product to a degree that it can really facilitate business owners. Only then can it avoid the failure of its previous attempts to promote social networks, such as “Laiwang” and “Life Circle”.
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Su Jianxun please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.