Alipay poaches Douyin staff to fuel social media ambitions

Is China’s leading payment app, Alipay, striving to become the next “super app”? Judging by the company’s recent moves, it is at the very least looking to tag on new social functions. But this could easily serve as a springboard for further functional expansions – and more monetisation opportunities.

Last week, local news outlets reported that last year Alipay poached operations and advertising personnel from successful social commerce ventures like Douyin (TikTok’s sister app in China) and Xiaohongshu (an Instagram-like lifestyle platform).

On top of this, at the start of this year, Alipay began internally testing a new social feature that would allow users to connect over shared hobbies and interests. Screenshots shared by local media outlets show an “Interest Community” tab housed in Alipay’s existing messaging centre. From here, users can join groups related to their likes and interests, which would function like discussion forums. The messaging centre would also display details of popular activities happening in the local area based on users’ interests.

Many major Chinese platforms have been taking aim at competitors by tagging on new features within the social commerce and local life services space. Domestic social media giants like Douyin and Xiaohongshu and delivery apps Mietuan and are jostling for users’ attention, trying to provide for their every need with each new function added. However, most of this competition has been from e-commerce platforms adding social functions, or social media platforms adding more shopping/discovery features. Alipay stands apart from this as it is neither a shopping platform nor a social hub.

The news was widely shared on Chinese social media, even landing on Weibo’s Hot Search List with over 200 million views. Netizens are not too keen on the development in Alipay’s functionality. “Just focus on maintaining a great payment service, otherwise it will end up being a hodgepodge of random functions. There are already plenty of apps for socialising,” posted one disgruntled Weibo user.


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