China's Ant Financial is planning to open up its hugely popular payments platform Alipay to third parties, enabling millions of service providers to offer their wares through the app.
The three year programme is designed to help some 40 million service providers from across sectors tap into the Alipay ecosystem to win over customers increasingly living a "digital lifestyle".
The firm cites the ongoing coronavirus outbreak as an example of how digital technology can help service providers respond to customer needs.
Amid the outbreak, Alipay introduced an incentive system that encourages developers to create mini programs that can help users cope with the impact, including by fulfilling various needs of those who are living and working from home, while minimising the need for physical contact with service providers.
Within a week, more than 1200 developers responded, creating 181 mini programs on the Alipay app that enabled “contactless” services across China, including grocery deliveries, legal and medical advice, logistics, and public services.
Many have proved hugely popular, with one mini program providing free medical consultation offered by AliHealth receiving 700,000 daily visits on average.
Under the three-year plan, Alipay will work with 50,000 independent software vendors to help 40 million service providers digitalise their operations. Firms will get help with things such as payments, fraud, fund management, marketing, customer insight, acquisition, retention and engagement.
“The service sector in China is still in the nascent stages of digital transformation, and that means it has huge untapped potential,” says Simon Hu, CEO, Ant Financial. “Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we have also seen how digital technology can be used to help service providers become more agile and respond effectively to the fast-changing market environment.”
“Building a one-stop digital lifestyle platform not only creates immense value for our users - it will also play an essential role in accelerating the digital transformation of the service industry and unlocking more growth opportunities."