Alibaba seems to have taken the claims seriously that WeChat, the Chinese mobile messaging app, is a threat.
In a recent promotional event, Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Chinese Ecommerce giant, stated the numbers of their new messaging application, Laiwan. Laiwang was launched on Android and iOs devices just over a month ago, and since then has gained 10 million users. In comparison, WeChat, which is also the second most downloaded messaging application next to WhatsApp, gained over 4 million users 5 months after its release in 2011. The rise in numbers is easily explained by the amount of smartphones on the market now, compared to 2011, but the numbers are still impressive.
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Mobile messaging applications are extremely popular in China, and the ones that boast other options, beyond messaging such as payments, are getting a lot of fanfare. While Laiwang does not support any form of payments as of yet, the event which was centered around the application did mention numbers related to other Alibaba subsidiaries.
Jack Ma found it important to mention the number of users and accounts that are associated with Alipay and Taobao during the apps promotional event. Due to the high numbers, it could suggest that its payment method, Alipay, is integrated into an updated version of the application.
One could feel that WeChat is not a direct competitor to Laiwang because of the payment feature, however it does pose a threat to Alipay. Alibaba’s sudden entrance into the messaging market last month may also suggest they are interested in WeChat’s market share. With an expected immense growth in mobile payments, and over $131 million in mobile payments to be completed this year, and a 500% growth in comparison to last year, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Alibaba adding a payment option to Laiwang very soon.