Wei Jiang is the president and chief operating officer of Citcon, Inc., a mobile payment and marketing platform that connects Chinese travelers to international merchants. Prior to joining Citcon in the summer of 2017, Jiang led the consumer and commercial prepaid product and innovation team at Visa. He also led Visa’s U.S. product marketing team for debit, prepaid, commercial and small business products, which together represent more than 80 percent of Visa’s U.S. payment volume. ARN’s Rebecca Renner spoke to Jiang about the prevalence of mobile payment in China and its future for U.S. markets.
Renner: How many Chinese travelers come to the U.S. every year? How might Chinese travelers’ expectations from airport concessionaires differ from the expectations of travelers from other regions?
Jiang: By the end of 2017 there were around 3 million Chinese travelers coming into the U.S., spending more than 30 billion U.S. dollars. This number is expected to double by 2020. Essentially, we’re expecting 6 million Chinese travelers to the States and the spending will also double to 60 billion U.S. dollars. The average Chinese traveler spends $7,000 U.S. dollars per trip. Large parts of this are spent on shopping, transportation and dining. Shopping accounts for the largest part – almost $3,200 dollars per trip.
Three or five years ago, the whole U.S. tourism industry had been trying to launch a campaign called China Ready. The tourism industry has been preparing for a Chinese market for such a long time, because they see the fact that Chinese tourists are coming to the U.S. and are becoming the biggest tourism spenders. By 2021, China will become the number one international tourism market. The whole industry, including attractions, transportation, and hotels, they’re all preparing to welcome Chinese travelers. Of all the efforts to welcome Chinese travelers, mobile payments is one of the easiest ways to make Chinese customers more comfortable. As soon as Chinese consumers see the logo of WeChatPay or Alipay on the counter, they understand immediately that they are welcome. WeChatPay and Alipay are the most preferred ways to pay in China.
Renner: Why you think that WeChatPay and Alipay have been so popular in China compared to other modes of payment?
Jiang: A few years ago, cash was still king in China. Then China literally leapfrogged from a cash-based society to mobile payments. China didn’t really have much of a history of credit card use. If you go to China, you’ll see QR codes everywhere because of the two parent companies, Alibaba and Tencent. Alipay rose as the payment instrument for Alibaba and its e-commerce platform Taobao or Tmall, the largest e-commerce platform in China and also the largest in the world as well. Chinese consumers initially used Alipay as the payment instrument for them to shop online. WeChat is the biggest social media platform in China. Now they have over 1 billion active users monthly, which is huge. WeChat payment was initially used as user-to-user payment. Now mobile payment has done so much to make the purchasing experience in China so convenient that people would much rather use it than cash or credit card.
Renner: What effect has Citcon had on North American airport concessionaires?
Jiang: Citcon is the largest mobile payment service provider or partner to both WeChat and Alipay in North America. Since early 2017, we have been working with over 3,000 merchants in the U.S. and more than 10,000 locations the U.S. When we talk about airport or travel retail, we do see very strong demand from the market from the airport concessionaires. We are in ten airports and we have been in a 110 locations including with DFS Group, Pacific Gateway [Concessions], iShoppes, and Duty Free Americas. We see very strong performance from the all of those merchants. So we can already see that by accepting these mobile payments, airport concessionaires can attract more traffic from Chinese consumers and attract more revenue.