Ant Financial – an affiliate of China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba – beefed up its payments app with a greater focus on local services, and added new features including messaging and P2P money transfer.
Formerly known as Alipay Wallet, the new app is called Alipay 9.0 and includes a redesigned user interface, as well as enabling users to more easily buy products and services from local shops or restaurants.
The company said the changes represent “a significant repositioning of the mobile app” whose core activity is processing e-payments through Alipay.
The app started out as a means for users to pay for goods and services in physical stores using their phones. Now Ant Financial is piling on additional services around this core activity.
“The new Alipay app is no longer a wallet,” said Fan Zhiming, president of Ant Financial’s payment business.
Rather he described it as a “super app” and a “platform which will change the way you shop, the way you spend and the way you manage your finances.”
The app offers access to Ant Financial’s money-market fund and other wealth-management products.
The new user inferface for the app, available for iOS and Android, offers two main tabs – Merchants and Friends.
The Merchants tab offers users the locations of nearby restaurants and shops, the opportunity to get discounted coupons and settle payments at merchants’ e-shops via Alipay, the same as shopping online. Users can also pay merchants by scanning barcodes or QR codes at cash registers.
Local services will be available via Koubei, a recently launched joint venture between Alibaba and Ant Financial aimed at making local services more accessible through O2O (online-to-offline) e-commerce
The Friends tab contains social functions such as messaging, as well as a money transfer button so people can pay each other electronically, and an IOU tab allowing users to keep track of loans.
However, Alipay 9.0 is not designed to be a standalone messaging app like Alibaba’s IM app but is designed for communication on financial-related matters. “It is a payment app and our functions are financial-related,” Fan said.