Wal-Mart has begun accepting WeChat Pay, a mobile barcode-based payment option from Chinese messaging provider WeChat, in checkout lines at more than 100 stores in China.
The payment option is part of a broader relationship between Wal-Mart, which has 433 stores in China, and WeChat. Wal-Mart also has a loyalty program where followers of Wal-Mart’s WeChat account can share special offers with their connections.
Wal-Mart WeChat account offers a digital gift card feature that allows Chinese consumers to buy and send virtual gift cards to friends for use in Wal-Mart stores or in Wal-Mart mobile apps.
Wal-Mart has been in China for about six years, but in the last couple of years it reportedly has slowed new store build-outs as it confronts the reality of growing e-commerce adoption in China. The retail giant more recently has focused on driving its e-commerce growth in the world's most populous country.
Retail experts have talked about the importance of having trusted multi-platform local partners in China, and Wal-Mart has one with much to leverage. Earlier this year WeChat had more than a billion user accounts worldwide, with more than 600 million active users in China.
Still, Wal-Mart wants to do everything it can to stay viable on all fronts in China, and the WeChat relationship offers the ability to do that. The mobile payments move should endear Wal-Mart to WeChat users who live in the app. Wal-Mart likely thinks the loyalty program and gift card options will help word will spread quickly to other WeChat users that Wal-Mart is the WeChat-friendly place to shop.