All Smiles for Alibaba's Payments Innovation

Discover how ‘Smile to Pay’ might revolutionize mobile payments


U.S. mobile payments are set to sore over the next couple of years, with it predicted that payments from national brands and local merchants will grow from $52 billion to $142 billion by 2019. This increase has been tapped into by Alibaba, who want to use ‘selfies’ as form of authorisation.

The ‘selfie’ craze started in 2010, and whether you like it or not, it’s still arguably in full swing. Try and scroll down your Facebook feed and you’ll be hard pressed to not see somebody taking one whilst on holiday, evidence that a lot of us still see the selfie as the essential holiday snap.

Called ‘Smile to Pay’, it allows users to shop online free of passwords. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, idea is for users to snap a selfie in order to authenticate a purchase. Using facial recognition technology, it’s thought that the service will make shopping online easier and securer.

Taobao, China’s answer to eBay, might not be familiar to everyone in the West, but with an Alexa rank of 9, it’s one of China’s most visited sites. Alibaba’s other online payment platform, Alipay, was launched in 2004 in conjunction with Taobao, and now boasts more than 300 million users.

Whilst Ma doesn’t have the majority stake in Alipay anymore, he has had a considerable impact on its success. This should stand Alibaba in good stead as they look to make their ‘Smile to Pay’ mobile payment platform a success.

Although some might call the ‘Smile to Pay’ idea gimmicky, if it promotes a securer e-commerce landscape then it should be looked into. Named one of the words of year in 2013, it looks as if the ‘selfie’ is here to stay.

However, there will be considerable competition for Alibaba, with ‘Apple Pay’ and ‘CurrentC’ set to be available by the end of the year, leaving us in no doubt that 2015 will be a big year for mobile payment innovation.


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