• Andrew Collins

The Future of Shopping in China

Updated: Jun 7, 2019


The world is smartphone obsessed. With apps that keep you connected, informed, and functioning, smartphones are an everyday essential. This phenomena is magnified in China. You can forget about your laptop, camera, and even wallet, because all of that can be substituted with your smartphone. Smartphones are changing the way Chinese people are interacting and also how they’re shopping.

Mobile payment hasn’t quite taken off in the US yet. Sure, there are plenty of American mobile payment platforms like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and PayPal but they don’t measure up to the level of popularity Alibaba’s AliPay, Tencent’s TenPay, or the Chinese government’s UnionPay has gained in China. These three players hold 80% of the market share. In a country where cash is king, these companies are introducing to the Chinese the perks of credit card accounts and helping local banks better serve their customers.


These companies are even working on innovating the existing product. Alibaba is experimenting with image recognition technology. The e-commerce giant is hoping to introduce a mobile payment feature which will allow users to pay with a selfie. Instead of using passwords or a thumbprint for verification, methods that already exist in the market, Alibaba wants to take advantage of the smartphone camera. The service is called “Smile to Pay.” The user simply takes a selfie during the point of purchase and that photo is matched to a stored profile picture, thereby validating the purchase.


Shopping and social media apps are also integrating various technologies into their applications to create better shopping experiences for their users. Taobao’s shopping app includes speech-activated product searches. ASAP54 allows shoppers to take a photo of an item of clothing and the app will search retailers’ catalogues to pull out similar pieces for them to purchase. Amazon’s Price Check also uses image recognition technology and allows users to snap, scan, say, or type the product they want to find.

The future of shopping in China is headed down an increasingly digital and technological road so cut up those credit cards and get used to paying with a selfie.

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