How Alipay is helping U.S. retailers adapt to a changing e-commerce landscape

Ant Group
Alipay and the World
4 min readSep 14, 2021

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Throughout 2020, clicking “add to cart” became just as common — if not more so — as running to the store for people across the world as they shopped for necessities and adapted to the changing landscape of a pandemic world.

While consumers around the world have increasingly been using e-commerce for years, the pandemic accelerated this shift by more than five years, according to researchers. During this period of rapid change, it was essential that businesses adapt their models to reach consumers where they are and position themselves for continued success.

The Changing Landscape

For U.S. retailers that sell abroad, e-commerce has never been so crucial. In 2018, for example, Chinese tourists spent more than $130 billion while traveling abroad. In the year prior to the pandemic, from April 2019 to March 2020, U.S. retailers completed over in-person 800,000 transactions with Chinese tourists in the United States using Alipay, facilitating $232 million in point-of-sale transactions between Chinese tourists and U.S. businesses in the United States.

When this spending came to a halt in March 2020, the digitization of e-commerce and providing access to alternative online payments became an increasingly important channel for merchants to reach new markets. Businesses risked losing customers if they didn’t act to provide the payment solution so preferred by more than 1 billion Chinese consumers. Alipay became not only a tool for the Chinese consumer to make purchases from U.S. retailers, it became essential for U.S. businesses to expand their sales footprint to find growth by reaching new customers overseas. This, in turn, amplified potential revenue growth for U.S. brands.

Several retailers such as nike.com, esteelauder.com, ShopBop, and Revolve quickly adapted to the situation by partnering with Alipay to sell their products in China. The integration made it easier for these companies to reach hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers and helped to bridge the continued demand from Asian consumers looking for international products and apparel.

Partnership with Shopify

In November 2020, Alipay also cemented a strategic partnership with Shopify focused on cross-border commerce — and helped its merchants quickly adapt to the new normal. With the partnership, over 1 million Shopify merchants based in North America could seamlessly sell their products to Asian consumers who primarily use Alipay — allowing the merchants to tap into a market of more than one billion active users in China alone. This also allowed North American businesses to tap into and launch digital marketing campaigns around Chinese shopping events and holidays, such as Singles Day, 12.12 and the Chinese New Year holiday.

Additionally, as Alipay is the dominant form of payment on Tmall, Alibaba’s e-commerce platform that helps American and other international companies sell into China, Alipay helped facilitate U.S. brands selling $54 billion worth of products abroad in 2020 alone.

Shopify merchants speak out on the Alipay partnership

“Since onboarding Alipay as an alternative payment method, we’ve been able to target and reach a wide range of customers with the help of their marketing campaigns across the Alipay app,” said Kim Zorn, the Head of Performance at apparel brand Princess Polly, a Shopify merchant. “Since launch, we’ve been pleased with the results of our campaigns and are looking forward to continuing growth in 2021.”

Kelly McDonnell, VP, Digital Marketing at Chantecaille, noted, “Launching Alipay at Chantecaille.com was fast and frictionless. It has enabled us to offer more payment options that cater to our global network of customers and serve new customers. We’re looking forward to working directly with Alipay to form more partnership programs in 2021 and beyond.”

Back to travel

As COVID precautions lift and international travel returns, it will be more important than ever to serve the nearly 4 million Chinese travelers who are in the U.S. at any given time and who are accustomed to using digital wallets such as Alipay as their preferred payment method. According to a 2019 Nielsen report, more than two-thirds of Chinese tourists used their smartphones to pay abroad in 2018, and nearly 60 percent of merchants surveyed for the report saw growth in foot traffic and revenue after adopting Alipay. While Alipay is currently available at tens of thousands of U.S. merchants, more businesses adding it as an alternative payment method in the coming months and years will be wise to serving these travelers as international travel returns.

As cross-border commerce continues to accelerate, trends in U.S. and Chinese digital payment behaviors are aligning in interesting ways. QR codes, which make contactless payments possible and which have been used in Chinese and Asian payment apps for years now, have exploded in popularity the United States during the pandemic and beyond. Popular payments services such as PayPal and Venmo now use QR codes for simple and easy transactions over their apps at retailers such as CVS in New York.

New York City bus shelter

As the post-pandemic landscape continue to emerge, businesses have become more creative than ever in adjusting to the changing environment by continuing to innovate and rethink how they can reach consumers wherever they are in the world.

For more news and information about Ant Group and Alipay, check out our official website or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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Ant Group
Alipay and the World

Ant Group is a tech company dedicated to bringing inclusive finance to the world, through Alipay and its global partners.