By Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-11 21:58:01

Alipay users surprised after receiving 10-year spending details

Third-party payment platform Alipay surprised some users recently by sending them details of their spending over the last 10 years. Experts said data from the company shows how important online payment has become.

Pedestrians take an escalator next to an advertisement for Alipay Wallet and Yu'ebao in Shanghai, in February. Photo: Ic

A statement sent out by Alipay on Monday came as something of a shock for Guo, a graphic designer who is also a regular online shopper.

The statement said she had spent a total of 560,000 yuan ($96,685) over the past 10 years.

"I never thought I could have spent so much. I thought I had only spent about half that," Guo, who only gave her surname, told the Global Times Tuesday.

Alipay, the online third-party payment arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has been sending users their annual statements for years, but the one sent out on Monday gave users a look at their spending over the whole decade since Alipay was launched in 2004.

While some users were shocked by how much they had spent in that time, experts noted how much online payment has changed consumer behavior, and how that change is set to continue.

Mixed feelings

Guo said the service offered by Alipay has made paying bills a lot more convenient.

"It's possible to pay a water bill online through a number of other platforms, but Alipay is an all-in-one gateway. I can perform almost any kind of payment with this service," she said.

"The statement functions as a brand promotion as well as a service," said Wang Weidong, an industry analyst with Beijing-based market research firm iResearch.

The statement gained a lot of attention in the Chinese online community, with many expressing surprise at the strength of their appetite for spending. But some said it was not particularly useful.

Zhu Xiaojun, a 32-year-old Beijing resident, said the statement did not mean much to him because it did not offer enough specific spending details.

"I seldom buy things online but I pay my mortgage via Alipay, and that was included in the statement. It doesn't show my shopping pattern so it does not serve as a reference," Zhu told the Global Times Wednesday.

The statement also gave people an estimate of their personal wealth in 2024, although most users were skeptical about it.

Zhou Li, a Beijing resident in his 30s, opened an Alipay account one month ago and has placed just one order for a few books, worth 150 yuan in total. The statement said he would have personal wealth of 1 million yuan by 2024.

"It is a puzzle to me what the calculation is based on. I think it is groundless," Zhou said.

Useful findings

Despite complaints about the statement, experts said data from Alipay did offer some worthwhile findings.

The top five provinces and municipalities in terms of the amount of money spent on Alipay in the past 10 years are South China's Guangdong Province, East China's Zhejiang Province, Shanghai, Beijing and East China's Jiangsu Province, according to a press release e-mailed to the Global Times Tuesday.

About 6 billion payments - including household and credit card bills, phone fees, and bank transfers - were made during the past decade, saving a considerable amount of time and money for Alipay users, the press release said.

In China's western provinces, such as Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, a higher proportion of people are paying via mobile devices than in other parts of the country, the press release said.

"These findings tells us how the Internet is penetrating, optimizing and reshaping industries and consumer behavior," said Wang from iResearch.

It also affects how people manage their wealth.

According to data from Alipay, people born during the 1980s accounted for 43.9 percent of those who bought into Yu'ebao, an online monetary fund managed by Alibaba and Tianhong Asset Management Co. Those born during the 1990s made up 33.2 percent of Yu'ebao users.

Online monetary funds appealed to users because their return rates used to be much higher than those from bank deposits, but the rates have fallen steadily in 2014, from a seven-day annualized return of as much as 7.4 percent at the beginning of the year to around 4 percent on Tuesday.

Yu'ebao competes with several other monetary funds offered by China's Internet giants, including Caifubao, offered by Internet giant Tencent Holdings, and Cunqianguan, which is offered by Sina Inc.

Mobile future

In the the third quarter of 2014, Alipay's share of the mobile payment market was more than 79 percent, with smaller rivals such as Lakala Payment and Tenpay having a share of around 7.5 percent each, according to data in a report released on November 19 by research firm Analysys International.

The Analysys report noted that about half of the transactions using Alipay are bank transfers and credit card payments.

But as the market shifts from being PC-based to mobile-based, it remains to be seen whether Alipay can maintain its dominance, according to Qian Haili, an analyst at Hangzhou-based E-Commerce Research Center.

Qian said Alipay's market share was partly due to the company's connection to and, two online shopping markets also owned by Alibaba.

"The primary function of these payment services is for shopping and having connections with the two shopping sites certainly helped," Qian told the Global Times Wednesday.

On Friday, when the date will be December 12, a new round of online shopping promotions will be launched by China's Internet giants, even though it has only been a month since the "Singles' Day" shopping festival on November 11.

The Singles' Day transactions on Alipay topped 57.1 billion yuan this year, Alibaba said on November 12.

To further promote mobile payment, Alipay has cooperated with Apple Inc to allow iPhone 5S users to authorize payment with their fingerprints, China Business News reported on Tuesday.

The US tech giant is hoping its new Apple Pay service can gain greater access to the Chinese market, Qian noted, "and Alipay could benefit from the cooperation."

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