Alternative Blue

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Blue flags were hung outside of hundreds of shops in the past few weeks in the city’s bustling tourist districts from the Ruins of St. Paul’s to Rua de Pedro Nolasco da Silva. Serving as more than decoration, the flags represented a new kind of pay- ment customers can enjoy beyond tradi- tional cash or credit cards – e-payment solutions.
The project – termed Blue Street – marks the latest effort to promote e- payment in support of the city’s small- and medium-sized enterprises, and has achieved a resounding success, say the organisers.
“The event enriches the shopping experience of [Macau] residents and travellers, offering an alternative to tra- ditional payment means,” enthused Lei Cheok Kuan, president of the Industry and Commerce Federation of Macau Central and Southern District, key or- ganiser of the Blue Street project. The event, lasting for the entirety of Decem- ber, offered discounts by 188 participat- ing SMEs – mainly downtown retailers and eateries – via terminals enabling customers to settle transactions with Chinese third-party payment service Alipay, launched by e-commerce con- glomerate Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., or local stored value card Macau Pass.
“It enables local companies to have a taste of e-payment and the benefits of the O2O [online to offline] business model” as the privileges and information of the event are provided to users through the Ailpay mobile application, he said. “This boosts businesses in the community.”
The launch of Blue Street, regarded as the city’s first e-payment district, fol- lows the visits of Premier Li Keqiang and Jack Ma Yun, founder of Alibaba, to Macau last year. During his first tour of Macau as premier in October, Mr. Li announced 19 measures to support the development of the territory, such as facilitating the co-operation of Macau companies with third-party payment companies in Mainland China. Prior to the arrival of the Chinese premier, Mr. Ma met with the city’s officials in June, saying his companies were willing to deepen ties with Macau.
Leading force
Tai Kin Ip, director of the Macau Eco- nomic Services sponsoring the project, said at a public event in December that the Blue Street project served as a pilot project facilitating the development of e- payments in the city in addition to redi- recting visitor traffic from crowded areas.
The campaign achieved a resound- ing success, as merchants reported 40 per cent more turnover in December than normal days and a fourfold surge in turnover for December 9-12, a key 12.12 promotional period of Alipay around the world, he said.
Alipay was chosen as the mobile payment platform given its global scale. With 450 million active users on the Mainland, Alipay is a leading online payment solution; it covered 100,000 stores in 70 countries and regions be- sides Mainland China by December, news agency Reuters reported.
The Chinese third-party payment company has also secured partnerships with institutions in regions beyond the
Mainland – including Macau – tapping into the business potential of Main- land consumers travelling abroad. The platform signed a strategic agreement in 2015 with stored value card issuer Macau Pass SA, the sole authorised agent of the former in the territory.
According to Macau Economic Services, nearly 300 Macau retailers accepted Alipay via 1,100 Macau Pass devices by the third quarter of 2016. The average Alipay transaction via Macau Pass at retailers stood at about MOP50,000 a month by end-Septem- ber, data shows.
Also describing Blue Street a suc- cess, William Mio Cheng U, Deputy Marketing Director of Macau Pass, said the daily average of e-payment transac- tions during the campaign was some 150 per cent more than normal days.The number in the key 12.12 promotion- al period of Alipay was even six times that of normal days, he noted.
Setting a target of MOP10 million (US$1.25 million) in turnover for the 12.12 promotional period, the deputy marketing director revealed the goal was met “on the morning of the second day of the campaign” although he did not reveal the sales figure for all four days.
“Blue Street can increase the ex- posure of e-payment platforms to local retailers and shops,” Mr. Mio said. “As Macau is a tourist city with most visi- tors coming from the Mainland, it’s im- portant to make e-payment more preva- lent starting with tourist districts.”
Bottleneck
Speaking of the development of third party payment and mobile payment in the city, he said the territory could im- prove its legal framework. “Compared with the Mainland, third party payment is still pretty novel to the city, which lacks comprehensive rules pushing for- ward its development,” he said.
But the Monetary Authority of Macau, the city’s financial regulator, said in a recent reply to legislators’ en- quiries that the city’s existing laws did not impose any hurdles to the develop- ment of third-party payment, and that the regulator would promptly assess ap- plications of any financial institutions in expanding the scale of their payment models.
“E-payment and the O2O [online to offline] business model are the latest global trends, beneficial to local com- panies now facing different obstacles in operations like the lack of human re- sources,” said Rainbow Lei Choi Hong, president of the Macau International In- dustrial Technology Development As- sociation.
Her Association supports the Blue Street campaign through the installa- tion of equipment in the area to provide free Wifi. “Some infrastructure has to be in place before we talk about the promo- tion of mobile payment and e-commerce, such as ensuring a stable Wifi signal,” she noted. “We’re giving [a helping] hand to the authorities. If Macau wants to de- velop into a smart city [integrating in- formation technology solutions into the city’s urban development] as envisaged in the Policy Address, the government has to take the lead.”