Camden Market, London’s fourth biggest tourist attraction is breaking the mould by permitting users of WeChat Pay to use their e-wallets to make purchases.
WeChat Pay is hugely popular in China – in 2017 alone, €1.5 trillion of payments were processed via the app globally – and according to recent research the service accounts for 40% of the entire Chinese mobile payment market.
The app is especially popular with Chinese tourists and WeChat have been making concerted efforts to extend its reach into Europe, where Chinese visitors spend more than European and US tourists combined. Luxury goods are particularly popular – Asia accounts for 50% of all luxury purchases made in Europe.
Camden Market is partnering with AIM market listed payments-tech company SafeCharge International to provide the service. SafeCharge have developed a proprietary payment platform that connects to all of the major card providers, including MasterCard, American Express and Union Pay, as well as more than 150 local payment networks.
Unlike many e-wallets, whose payments are capped at £30, WeChat Pay has no such restrictions, which is great news for Camden Market’s diverse community of over 1,000 street food vendors, vintage clothing stores, restaurants, bars, clubs, and off-beat, indie fashion and accessory boutiques.
One trader renting space at the legendary market, the co-founder of Killa Dilla Joshua Whiting, praised the decision to accept WeChat Pay, commenting that “WeChat Pay is massive in China and we believe this ‘app for everything’ that integrates social media, messaging and payment systems will be hugely beneficial for our business.”
WeChat is indeed unlike anything you might find in the app-stores of the Western World. Inside the app, users can do almost anything, from shopping online, to booking holidays, moving money and chatting with contacts. Think Facebook, Amazon, and PayPal rolled into one – and throw in GoCompare, StubHub, and TransferWise for good measure – and you have some idea of the power WeChat exerts over its mainly Chinese and Asian user-base.
Ceri Davies, Operations Director of Camden Market, said in a statement that “With hundreds of thousands of Chinese visitors coming to London each year, we feel that this is another way in which we can continue to promote the heritage of Camden Market abroad, and attract new visitors to our shops, stalls, and restaurants.”
“With over 30,000 visitors a day, Camden Market remains one of London’s most enduring attractions, and we believe that this is a great way to adapt to the growing number of Chinese locals and tourists who visit the market. We are constantly on the lookout for new and innovative ways to support our tenants, and hope that this integration will allow our merchants to continue to meet the needs of a diverse London.”
It’s hard to see how the partnership will be anything other than a success. As Han Chin, Creative Director at Studio Collection, says: “Chinese/Asian students and tourists have flooded into London over the last few years. Recently, more and more of these shoppers have started acknowledging the existence of Camden Town.”
Indeed, less than a decade ago it might have been hard to picture Chinese tourists flocking to Camden over more traditional tourist attractions, or straying too far from the likes of Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and the Natural History Museum or Tate Galleries.
It’s just another way in which fintech is opening up new opportunities, and giving people the power to be bold and try out new cultural experiences as well as new tech.
Another bonus? As Han Chin puts it, “with the WeChat messaging service we can communicate with customers in real time, introducing the latest products in more detail as well as helping us to improve our customer service overseas.”
In other words, WeChat gives traders the ability to showcase or even sell their products online through the app – which should have the twin effect of both increasing footfall at the market, and encouraging those that don’t end up making the trip to purchase items from the stores anyway.
The Money Cloud View
Camden Market has done what, in all likelihood, we will see more and more European tourist attractions do over the next decade – make themselves more appealing to a small army of visitors from China, by leveraging Eastern fintech.
The Market’s “first mover advantage” may not last for long, but on another note, it’s great to see today’s tech delivering cultural, as well as financial gain – and tech providing a truly borderless, as well as cashless, experience.
Right now, WeChat is where the likes of Facebook and Amazon would love to be; as all-powerful as they are, these behemoths will have to work overtime just to stay in the game, as the Red Queen theory, with which all tech founders are familiar with, expounds.
It’s an exciting time for lovers of disruptive tech to be alive!