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Western Union unlocks WeChat’s popularity to fuel cross-border mobile payments

Western Union is bringing global money transfers to the forefront by enabling WeChat application users in the United States to distribute funds to 200 countries and territories via the messaging service.

The WU Connect platform now allows consumers to send cross-border payments to more than 200 countries, proving the omnipotence of mobile commerce services with global capabilities. The growing popularity of the WeChat messaging application also deems it an optimal communication channel to leverage, especially as individuals become more comfortable with transferring funds via social media.

“WeChat already has over 600 million users globally,” said Marci Troutman, CEO of Siteminis, Atlanta. “With this type of traffic, Western Union’s collaboration with WeChat for a new global money transfer service should gain new customers and revenue.

“Since WeChat is a free communication app, this makes perfect sense, as the customer already is familiar with the app. There is an added benefit of users now being able to send money globally to over 200 countries without needing to find a bricks-and-mortar location.”

Making waves in digital
Western Union is seeking to solidify its status as a leader in the mobile payments sector by offering customers a quick and seamless way of receiving money, regardless of the recipient’s location.

While several social-based platforms, including Facebook Messenger, allow person-to-person payments to occur, WeChat is the premier social communication app to support cross-border fund transfers to more than 200 territories.

The ability to engage in these global payments is currently available for U.S. users only, with additional country rollouts planned for the future.

WeChat’s strong presence among Asian consumers is likely a contributing factor as to why the messaging app was chosen out of several other bigwigs in the social space.

Over the summer, Chinese-American supermarket chain 99 Ranch Market leveraged a beacon-powered mobile game that shoppers could play via WeChat for a chance to win in-store prizes, proving that the messaging app carries sway with a majority of customers (see story).

The WU Connect platform embeds the global payment service brand’s money transfer function into third-party apps to enable users to rapidly send funds to friends and family. Users can fund the payments via a debit card, bank account or credit card.

The funds will then be directed to a retail agent at a worldwide Western Union location before it reaches the recipient’s bank account or mobile wallet.

Smart partnerships
WeChat, alongside its sister platform Weixin, boasted more than 650 million monthly users by September 2015’s end, proving its unstoppable force in the social media sector. Western Union is keen to tap into the lucrative field of mobile payments, and has found a viable partner in WeChat.

The collaboration may soon prompt other messaging platforms to implement money-sharing features into their systems that are eligible for use by consumers in a plethora of countries.

WeChat may also find its user base growing rapidly following this announcement. Some consumers may prefer using an alternative messaging platform, such as Facebook Messenger, but could be fueled to leave it behind in favor of having the ability to send mobile payments to residents of 200 nations.

Therefore, this move will raise the bar for all digital payments geared toward the average mobile user.

This past June, WeChat and China Central Television led the charge in bringing iBeacon technology into the media industry with a recent pilot targeting tourists during the International Workers Day holiday (see story). The app’s dedication to innovation in digital avenues will likely attract even more major brand partnerships.

“Western Union should be able to gain a significant boost in new customers, especially in the Pacific Rim countries,” Ms. Troutman said. “The ability for consumers to use a debit or credit card for the transaction from a mobile device makes the process easier, faster and more efficient.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely, staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York