China's retail giant Alibaba is at the global forefront of new payment technology, harnessing facial recognition, mobile apps and more to merge the digital and physical for next-gen seamless transactions

The major players of retail in China have built complete shopping ecosystems that allow them to collect an enormous amount of data across the customer journey, which they use to streamline operations and guide rapid-fire innovation. This applies to many key area, including to seamless transactions fully integrated into the shopping process that allow customers to focus on the experience, and less on the purchase process.

In response to increasing consumer demand for fast, frictionless transactions, Alibaba is implementing payment methods that allow shoppers to easily pay through its Alipay app. Here's how four implementations of Alibaba's payment tech are improving customer experiences across categories:

At select locations of Hema, Alibaba’s cashierless supermarkets, shoppers can pay via facial recognition at special face-scanning kiosks. Shoppers also have the option to check out via the Hema app, which is connected to Alipay, Alibaba’s mobile payments platform. The app also logs their purchases, saves their delivery address and preferences and allows them to scan items to learn more information, including product origin, nutritional information and cooking instructions.

KFC x Ant Financial
Fast food chain KFC partnered with Ant Financial to allow diners to pay by smiling and inputting their phone numbers. The Smile to Pay kiosk scans faces with a 3D camera and is connected to users’ Alipay accounts. It uses a sophisticated algorithm to prevent fraud, verifying that the face in front of the camera is actually a person and not a photo used to trick the payment system. The service debuted at KFC’s K Pro store in Hangzhou, the brand’s healthier restaurant designed to attract younger consumers, featuring salads and other better-for-you options instead of fried chicken.

Wu Fang Zhai x Koubei
Wu Fang Zhai, a Chinese restaurant franchise founded in 1921 that is famous for its traditional food, got a digital makeover from Alibaba’s local services platform, Koubei. Diners place their orders by scanning a QR code on their tables using the Koubei app. The app notifies them when their order is ready, and they retrieve it from their assigned locker. Diners can play an AR game in the app to earn discounts on their meal. Next to the restaurant is an unmanned shop where customers can buy food 24 hours a day, paying through Alipay. The restaurant reported a 40% increase in sales after implementing the new technology.

FlyZoo Hotel
Alibaba’s FlyZoo Hotel relies on smart interactives technologies to handle guests’ needs, instead of human employees. A robot serves as a receptionist, using facial recognition technology to greet guests. Once guests are checked in, their details are shared with all hotel services, including elevators that can automatically bring them to their floors and a room door that automatically unlocks after a camera verifies their faces. Robots deliver room service, while humans are still employed to handle housekeeping. According to FlyZoo’s CEO, the hotel is 1.5 times more efficient than traditional hotels.

For more examples of Retailers that are developing innovations in transactions & payments visit PSFK's China Retail Debrief.