Nearly three million mainland visitors showed up in Singapore during the first 11 months of last year, and one of the city’s biggest shopping centres is angling to capture more of that PRC cash through a tie-up with Jack Ma’s Alipay.
A new two-year partnership deal between Alipay, the online payment platform of Ma’s Ant Financial, and the management of Suntec City will enable shoppers to buy souvenir t-shirts, Levi’s jeans or an iPhone 8 at some 350 stores in the central Singapore mall using the same QR code that they use to shop on Alibaba’s Taobao or T-Mall.
The cashless payment hook-up, which was announced in a joint statement this week by the Chinese ecommerce giant and the shopping centre controlled by ARA Asset Management’s Suntec REIT, comes as online payment and the mobile Internet continue to blur the boundaries between online and offline retail.
Putting Up Payment Points at 350 Suntec Shops
Under the terms of the deal, an Alipay payment option will gradually be made available to the online transaction platform’s 520 million users who visit Suntec City’s 350 stores, with payment terminals set to be in place in around 60 percent of the stores by July. The Ant Financial system is estimated to command around 50 percent of mainland China’s online payment market.
“We are delighted to partner Alipay to offer our Chinese shoppers a seamless payment system that they are familiar with,” said Chan Kong Leong, CEO of Suntec REIT, owner of Suntec City. “This partnership with the market leader in mobile and online payment platforms is a great opportunity for us to elevate engagement with our shoppers in the digital space.”
Chinese tourists are expected to be the major users of the payment system in the mall, with Singapore’s Tourism Board having tallied more than 2.98 million mainland visitors to the island nation of 5.6 million people by the end of November last year. Mainland arrivals have now outranked all other sources of arrivals in Singapore for three consecutive years, and during the first half of 2017, spending by Chinese visitors accounted for 18 percent of the city state’s tourism receipts.
Singapore Gets Hip to Mainland Fintech
To help familiarise merchants with the mobile payment platform, Alipay will provide hands-on training to merchants on the operation of the terminals, called touchpoints. Alipay has launched a dedicated Suntec City microsite within its payment app to promote the shopping centre and its retail tenants. The marketing campaign that runs until March offers a RMB 25 ($4) F&B voucher and a RMB 50 ($8) retail voucher which are accepted at participating tenants in Suntec City.
“Suntec City is a must-visit shopping destination among Chinese tourists and business delegates who convene at Suntec Singapore for exhibitions, seminars and conferences,” said Cherry Huang, General Manager at Cross-border Business for South and Southeast Asia, Alipay. “We are happy to partner with Suntec City to deploy Alipay touchpoints in the mall for Chinese visitors who are looking for the best of retail and lifestyle offerings and the same seamless shopping experiences that they enjoy at home.”
Alipay, the world’s largest mobile payment platform, came to prominence as Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao’s default transactional platform. The cashless payment provider had 20,000 touchpoints in Singapore as of August, 17,000 of them in taxis, according to an account by the Straits Times.
Building a Marina Bay Hub for Mainland Money
Completed in phases between 1995 and 1997, Suntec City mall is located alongside Marina Bay in Singapore’s Downtown Core, and is just one subway stop away from the Marina Bay Sands resort and casino. The four-storey mall has approximately 954,000 square feet (89,000 square metres) of retail space featuring international brands like H&M, Levi’s and Gap.
The Suntec City complex, which combines a set of five office towers and an exhibition centre built around the mall, forms part of a set of commercial assets owned by Singapore-listed Suntec REIT. The ARA-managed trust had S$9.6 billion ($7.1 billion) in assets under management at the end of 2016, including approximately one million square feet (93,000 square metres) of retail space spread across Australia and Singapore.