Marriott grabs share of Chinese wallets via Alipay integration
Marriott International is appealing to mobile-savvy Chinese consumers by introducing payment option Alipay at select properties, suggesting there may be an untapped demographic for travel marketers to target.
The hotel brand is joining forces with Ant Financial Services Group, a partner of Alibaba Group, to enable guests at participating properties to purchase hotel stays, beverages and food using Alipay on their mobile devices. Alipay’s sheer popularity with Chinese smartphone users may persuade some to opt to stay at a Marriott hotel and use their device to pay for items, as opposed to leveraging another payment method.
“Technology is always moving forward at a fast pace,” said Marci Troutman, CEO of Siteminis, Atlanta. “Although the growth has slowed slightly according to statistics and will be slower up through 2019, Chinese consumers will always be looking for a greater ease of use and become more comfortable with mobile payments the longer the technology exists.
“Hotel brands in China should definitely follow the path of Marriott with a similar test launch to start the process of gaining the familiarity and trust of their consumers to pay via mobile. As with any technology, it starts with a step forward, and with testing and improving slowly becomes the normal.”
Marketing to key players
The massive amount of Chinese consumers who prefer to use Alipay certainly suggests that more hotel marketers should consider employing the mobile payment option in a bid to reach the sought-after demographic. Marriott will officially active the function at ten properties in greater China, with a wider expansion planned across all of Asia by the middle of 2016.
The Ritz-Carlton hotels in Yalong Bay and Hong Kong will be among the first to leverage Alipay, alongside the JW Marriotts in Hong Kong and Shanghai and several Renaissance and Courtyard locations.
Alipay boasts 400 million users and 200 financial institution partners, making it a lucrative platform for driving sales in the hospitality sector. It sees more than 120 million transactions occur daily, with more than half happening on mobile devices.
Time-strapped hotel guests will likely appreciate the streamlined payment process, which will allow them to scan their QR code or bar code when paying for a room or item. They may also pre-pay hotel stays or food and beverage purchases, resulting in a faster checkout experience.
A recent report from the Chinese International Travel monitor revealed that 59 percent of Chinese consumers rank payment solutions as a top feature for hotels to offer, directly behind free Wi-Fi.
Marriott understands the power of incentives, and is aiming to drive more usage of Alipay by offering discounts to members of its Marriott Rewards loyalty program. Customers who book via direct channels such as Marriott.com.cn and pay with Alipay will receive a discount of up to eight percent on a room at best available rate, or best rate with breakfast.
As Chinese outbound travelers are expected to reach 200 million in the next five years, Marriott’s move of incorporating Alipay is a smart one, and one that other brands will likely piggyback off of. Marriott will have the opportunity to perfect the Alipay payment experience at the current ten participating locations, and will be able to hone any glitches before it expands to other hotels across Asia and other worldwide markets.
The hotel marketer is no stranger to using mobile to enhance guests’ stays.
In May, Marriott redefined the hotel visit with mobile at the center, enabling members of its loyalty program to engage in real-time conversations with staff before, during and after a visit through the brand’s application (see story).
“As with any new technology, it takes time for consumers to adapt to scanning for payment, and will most likely have a ‘slow adoption rate’ before becoming the norm,” Ms. Troutman said. “Alipay is tied to certain Chinese banks only and is an in-country system.
“The purpose of implementation, in my opinion, would be to allow Marriott to increase its foot traffic in China hotels for inter-country travel.”
Alex Samuely, editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York