A new partnership deal makes shopping a breeze for Chinese tourists visiting Finland. Since late October these travellers have been able to use the Alipay mobile app to pay for purchases in over 100 shops, restaurants and hotels in the Nordic country.
This is made possible by the collaboration between Alipay, partly owned by the world’s biggest online retailer Alibaba, and Helsinki-based financial technology company ePassi Payments. Alipay – which has 450 million active users in China – manages the consumer interface while ePassi provides retailers with its mobile payment platform and processes all transactions.
“We are strategic partner for Alipay,” says Alexander Yin, CFO at ePassi. “It is a natural cooperation as we are both in mobile payments [and] our systems look very similar which has made the integration easier.”
In addition to mobile payments, the ePassi-Alipay service provides tips and advice on shopping in Finland. This makes it easier for tourists to find shops and restaurants they like and opens up a new marketing channel for retailers.
“We are the only European company in Alipay’s ecosystem that is both a payment and marketing partner, which gives us a unique position to provide more value to the merchants in our network,” Yin explains. “We promote Finnish shops through the Alipay app and help tourists discover where and what they might want to buy before they start their trip.”
Greater motivation to shop
Finland attracts over 550,000 Chinese tourists every year who spend 650 euros during their visit on average, but it could be even higher since most Chinese do not use Western credit cards.
“Currently, the most common way for Chinese tourists is to pay with cash. Finland is often their first stop, but you don’t want to spend all your cash at the first place,” Yin says. “So when they come to Finland and see they can use a familiar and safe payment method, there is greater motivation to shop. “
ePassi and Alipay started discussing a potential partnership in early 2016 and it has been fast tracked ever since. The two companies finalised their cooperation model with the help of regional development agency Helsinki Business Hub (HBH) and were invited to present their joint service to the Finnish tourist industry in April. The mobile app was launched six months later, first in Helsinki and it is now expanding around the country.
“HBH is an important partner to us,” Yin says. “They have introduced us to many key parties, people and organisations on the retail and tourism market and helped us promote our service.“
Chinese eyes on Finland
For Alipay the partnership with ePassi is part of the company’s strategy to deepen its presence in Europe and its first initiative in Northern Europe.
“Alipay is new in Europe and Finland is very much at the top of its priorities,” says Yin. “Fliggy, a travel company which is part in the same group as Alibaba and Alipay, launched its European strategy in Rovaniemi [Finland] this year and all major Chinese tour operators are looking at Finland as a hot destination.”
ePassi already has presence in Finland, Germany and Sweden where its mobile platform for personnel benefits is used by thousands of organisations. Yin believes the next logical step for the ePassi-Alipay service is to expand across its existing markets before launching elsewhere in Europe.
“We will first reinforce the Finnish market, then our goal is to go to other European countries,” Yin explains. “We are building an ecosystem through this collaboration that includes everything needed to make the consumer experience the very best it can be.”
Picture: Alipay is China’s biggest mobile payment platform with 450 million active users. The ePassi-Alipay mobile payment platform allows Chinese tourists use a mobile app they know and trust in Finnish shops and restaurants.
TEXT: Eeva Haaramo