Neiman Marcus Group is the latest U.S. brand to adopt leading Chinese mobile-payments app Alipay, as the Dallas-based luxury retailer looks to capture new business from the 4 million Chinese travelers who are in the U.S at any given time.
Alipay is now available at the group’s 43 flagship Neiman Marcus department stores and two of its ultra-luxury Bergdorf Goodman locations in the U.S., the companies said on Tuesday. The digital lifestyle and payments app will also be accepted at 24 Neiman Marcus Last Call stores, which offer high fashions at discounted prices.
“Offering Alipay to our customers is another way we’ve exceeded our customers’ expectations as we’ve evolved our company into a digital luxury platform,” said David Goubert, executive vice president of stores and retail experience at Neiman Marcus Group.
“In fact, we’ve already received a significant amount of positive customer feedback as a result of launching this partnership and are now in the process of working to launch Alipay as an online payment option later this year,” he said.
Together with its global joint-venture partners, Alipay said it counts 1 billion users worldwide. The app’s growing availability in markets outside of China follows a larger trend of Chinese consumers heading overseas for work and, increasingly, holiday. According to a Nielsen report, there were 140 million outbound trips by Chinese tourists last year, an increase of 13.5% year-over-year.
These travelers want the same payments experience abroad that they have at home, Nielsen reported, with more than two-thirds of Chinese tourists using their smartphones for purchases while abroad last year when given the opportunity. That translated into more business for merchants, as nearly 60% of surveyed merchants saw growth in both foot traffic and revenue after adopting Alipay, Nielsen said.
“This is exactly the kind of strategic partnership that will greatly benefit Chinese consumers – expats, tourists, and students – who come to the U.S. to sight-see, explore, and shop,” said Yulei Wang, general manager, Alipay North America. “In the very competitive retail landscape, the convenience, familiarity, and security advantages of Alipay give Chinese shoppers a distinct reason to visit Neiman Marcus stores and, soon, online.”
In a release, Alipay pointed to another benefit of mobile payments: avoiding higher foreign credit-card transaction fees. In addition, the app’s location-based “Discover” feature is bringing Chinese consumers to nearby merchants while at the same time offering them deals and discounts to shop there. These campaigns are often tied to Chinese culture and holidays, which further boosts engagement with Alipay users.
“Retailers like Neiman Marcus are finding Alipay’s ‘Discover’ platform an easy and authentic way to connect with and offer special promotions unique to the Chinese population, such as the recent Chinese New Year,” Wang said. “Customers truly appreciate it when they see familiar cultural celebrations embraced by companies outside China.”
In April, the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., home ice for the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals, began accepting Alipay concession stands, ticketing windows and souvenir shops. Before that, in February, Alipay struck a similar agreement with Walgreens, one of the largest drugstore chains in the U.S., allowing Alipay users to shop at about 7,000 Walgreens locations. Last summer, San Francisco’s Pier 39, a popular shopping destination for Chinese consumers, signed on to accept Alipay, as well. Over 40 merchants and vendors on Pier 39, including Bubba Gump Shrimp, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and the Aquarium of the Bay, accept payments via the mobile wallet.
Launched in 2004, Alipay is accepted in 55 countries or regions around the world, including Japan, the UK, Germany and even at Santa’s Village in Finland. Users can hail a taxi, book a hotel, buy movie tickets, pay utility bills, make appointments with doctors, or purchase wealth-management products directly with the app. Alipay is owned by Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate company of Alibaba Group.