Inside Tencent’s Fight To Win Mobile Payments

To win control of China’s multi-trillion dollar mobile payments market, Tencent is fighting a gruelling ground war aimed at getting retailers and restaurants to accept its WeChat Pay digital wallet. A recent meeting between Tencent representatives and small business owners in Central China’s sprawling megalopolis of Wuhan highlighted the challenges.

The meeting, held in an opulent ballroom at a luxury hotel, was supposed to be a chance for store owners that accept WeChat Pay to be updated on new services. But things didn’t go so smoothly, said a person who attended the meeting. Some restaurant managers complained that WeChat Pay’s commission fees were too high, saying they paid lower fees to Alipay, the rival service provided by an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba that has a bigger market share. In response, Tencent employees shifted the discussion to how WeChat Pay can help restaurants cut other expenses.

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Wei Xiangmei, a coffee shop manager in Shenzhen near Tencent’s headquarters, started accepting WeChat Pay as a payment option more than a year ago. Now, about 80% of the customers at her shop are using WeChat Pay, she says.

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“We don’t just process payments. We try to help merchants upgrade their business models.”