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Guess Courts the Chinese Consumer With Alipay Integration

Fresh off its FashionAI pop-up experiment in Hong Kong earlier this month with Alibaba as technology partner, Guess said it will be integrating Alipay into 50 U.S. stores to better serve Chinese travelers.

Owned by Alibaba, Alipay is one of the most widely used payment platforms among Chinese consumers, and last year 82 percent of the service’s transactions went through a mobile device, according to an article in NFC World. More so than the U.S. and other Western nations, Chinese consumers lead in smartphone usage and mobile payments adoption, relying on the convenience of QR codes to pay for just about all of their daily purchases, from transit tickets to snacks at the mom-and-pop corner shop.

In 2016 the U.S. welcomed 2.97 million Chinese tourists whose spending surpassed $33 billion, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce report.

In its first quarter 2019 earnings call, Guess CFO Victor Herrero stressed the importance of China as a market and Alibaba as a strategic partner for the brand. Guess opened 12 stores throughout China during the quarter, including one in Hangzhou that’s “the first shopping mall opened by Alibaba, adjacent to their headquarters,” Herrero said.

“Our partnership with Alibaba continues to be very strong,” the CFO told analysts. “We have been chosen by Alibaba as one of the few international brand partners with existing physical stores for this new mall… This is a unique opportunity for us to collaborate with Alibaba in this experiment in experiential physical retail that we believe will provide us consumer insight that will enhance our e-commerce business, both with them on Tmall and in our physical stores.”

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Herrero also spoke of “trying to apply a lot of new technology into the retail shop” in China, and that mentality seems to be carrying over to stateside stores with the news that Alipay will be available in 50 stores in areas most attractive to Chinese tourists, including New York, Las Vegas and California. Chinese visitors shopping at GUESS, GUESS Accessories, GUESS Factory, Marciano and GbG will be able to pay with their Alipay mobile wallet, Guess said.

Alipay is also newly available at San Francisco’s Pier 39, a popular destination for tourists arriving from China, and a spokeswoman confirmed that Guess’ San Francisco store will be included in the Alipay rollout, signaling the Bay Area’s importance as a draw for Chinese travelers.

A geolocation feature built into the Alipay app will help Chinese users discover nearby Guess stores, and push notifications can send out promotions and offers to connect with this demographic. Newly able to reach Chinese travelers before, during and at the end of their trip, Guess said its brand awareness will increase among this highly mobile and lucrative group of consumers.

Souheil Badran, president of Alipay Americas, said incorporating familiar Chinese mobile payments platforms like Alipay into Guess stores is a step toward enabling “the best shopping experience, unimpeded by any language or payment barriers.”

Edward Park, Guess’ SVP of North America, said the Alipay deployment is a nod to the role that native applications play in the non-linear customer journey.

“As we continue to explore sophisticated technological enterprises, we look at it through the lens of our customers,” Park added.