Bluecode, a mobile payment solution developed in Austria for European banks and retailers, has recently announced a partnership with Alipay, the world’s largest payment platform by Alibaba, the Chinese internet giant.
It enables more than 700 million Asian to make mobile payments at retailers in Europe via the Bluecode European payment network. Following up on this monumental strategic partnership, the fintech startup has reached a new milestone; securing a growth capital investment of €11.2 million from three renowned, industry-related family offices from Europe. “This funding enables us to further extend both the European expansion as well as the functionality of Bluecode for our banking and merchant partners. While we will likely see reports about the alleged breakthrough of the American mobile payment solutions; Google Pay and Apple Pay—our investors, all successful entrepreneurs from the industry, share our conviction that European citizens, banks and retailers urgently need an alternative solution for mobile payment. A solution in which the customer interface and relationship remains with European banks and retailers. “Once the customer journey is lost to the providers from the US, the entire value chain of European companies is at risk,” says Christian Pirkner, CEO of Blue Code International AG.
Mobile payment according to European rules The reason for Bluecode’s efforts is the European growing dependency on non-European payment services, which in retail and e-commerce are mostly processed by American systems. Recently, several warnings about this growing dependency were issued, notably one instance by ECB Director Yves Mersch. Most payments via debit or credit cards in Europe are based on American schemes and regulations. In contrast to the US, the European economic region lacks a self-developed set of rules for cross-border payments for its more than 500 million citizens. In order to offer banks, retailers, and consumers an alternative solution based on European technology and data protection standards, Blue Code International AG has established the first independent and Europe-wide system for cashless payments via Android, iPhone and Apple Watch. Payments using Bluecode, work with all existing bank giro accounts in Austria and Germany. At the checkout, the customer uses a barcode within the Bluecode app, which is only valid for a single transaction. After its scanned on the smartphone, the payment is instantly finalized, and the amount is debited directly from the bank account. In recent months, more than 100 banks and financial institutions have joined Bluecode’s European payment network. These banks enable anonymous real-time authorization at the bank account and thus protect all customer data as well as payment transaction revenues. “The key factor, however, is that all bank and trading partners are able to integrate Bluecode directly into their own mobile apps. Hence, not only data and revenues, but also the entire customer journey remains in Europe. Bluecode does not receive the user’s name or account number in any of these cases - no matter which method is used,” says Christian Pirkner.
Bluecode expands in Europe - in cooperation with Alipay The growth capital investment greatly supports Bluecode to massively expand the network of retailers with its partner Alipay, which will use Bluecode’s technical infrastructure in Europe. As both are “optical” payment methods they do not require extra payment terminals, but can easily integrated into existing cash registers by means of a single software update. This enables retailers, restaurants, and hotels to accept payments via Bluecode and the over 700 million Alipay users. Unlike Europeans, Asian customers have skipped the age of payment cards and nowadays prefer paying with their smart devices through Alipay. Bluecode CEO Christian Pirkner points out the focus regions: “We continue to extend our already existing teams in Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, in the United Kingdom and Ireland. At the same time, we accompany our partner Alipay into new regions such as Italy, the Nordic countries and Eastern Europe.”
Focus on mobile payment combined with digital value-added services Globally, the largest and most successful mobile payment systems are those based on scanning a barcode or QR code from the user’s smartphone. What they have in common is the focus on added value for the customer, which often goes far beyond the payment itself. The payment process is often linked to customer loyalty programs, coupons, and vouchers. With the backing of the funding, Bluecode will further upgrade its own platform for value-added services, as Christian Pirkner explains: “Mobile payment must be more than only paying. We enable each of our banking and retail partners to easily integrate their own value-added services. Either the partners choose one of our value-added apps, such as a stamp card, bonus points, lottery or loyalty card linking, or the partners build their own functionalities and link them directly to our mobile payment process. The best examples of the world’s leading providers have demonstrated that there are no limits to the range of services and customer benefits. That’s why we want to further improve our value-added services platform and open it up to more partners and third parties.”