Following on the lead of other “super apps,” Zalo has been integrating new functions into its app, including a payment platform called Zalo Pay, which was introduced last year.
Launched in 2012, Zalo is Vietnam’s premier chatting platform, with more than 100 million users worldwide. On a daily basis, people send about 900 million messages, make 50 million minutes of calls, and deliver 45 million pictures through the app.
Zalo was a latecomer in the mobile payment game, introducing the Zalo Pay feature only in 2017. Zalo Pay did however achieve great success at the beginning of 2018 by running a “lucky money” campaign during the Lunar New Year that enabled users to gift lucky money to their loved ones using the digital wallet.
Like most e-wallet services out there, Zalo Pay allows users to link a payment card to make peer-to-peer payments, pay via NFC, QR codes, as well as purchase products and services online, mobile topups, and pay their utility bills.
But unlike most, it has an advantage over digital wallet rivals since it already has an enormous user base from its messaging application.
Rise of the “super apps”
Zalo joins the growing list of Vietnam’s so-called “super apps” which are leveraging their extensive user base to gain a foothold into numerous businesses.
A super app is described as a “powerful app” that incorporates many functions and features, from social networking and e-commerce, to goods delivery, and financial services. Grab, Now, Zalo and Go-Viet are currently Vietnam’s biggest players.
Zalo reached the 100 million user milestone earlier this year, while Grab said two out of every ten Vietnamese use its service. As for Now.vn, the platform doesn’t share exact numbers but it is said to be Vietnam’s food delivery leader in terms of daily orders. Now.vn is a brand owned by Foody, a leading culinary media and restaurant listing platform in Vietnam.
As of late-2015, Foody had 122,000 listed restaurants, 297,000 reviews, 1.66 million photos, 2.12 million collections, 650,000 app downloads and 9.1 million monthly visitors, which include 5.9 million mobile users.
Singapore-based tech unicorn Grab offers ride-hailing, food delivery services, good delivery services, logistics services, and since last year, financial services. It launched its mobile payments services in November 2017, and began offering micro-loans and insurance options in March 2018.
Meanwhile, Now.vn is cooperating with AirPay, a digital wallet provider.
Besides Zalo Pay, the Zalo app also comes with several other features including Zalo Shop, which allows users to purchase commodities online. Users can also check bus routes and weather information, buy airline tickets, look up the sanitation level of food shops, update health information, book their medical examination, and pay electricity as well as water bills.
App developers are trying to follow WeChat, China’s leading messaging app with over 900 million users that has since grown into an enormous ecosystem, encompassing social networking features, mobile financial services, transportation bookings, doctor appointments bookings, news feeds, and more.
“Consumers are increasingly living a modern lifestyle that is accompanied by digital services,” said Tran Thanh Nam, founder and director of mobile payment player MOCA Technology and Services Corporation.
“In addition to free social networks, they have begun to pay attention to incorporating electronic services for their daily needs. From ride hailing to food delivery, it comes with safe and convenient non-cash payments.”
But competition is heating up in the Vietnamese mobile payment market with new players like TrueMoney entering the market. Yet, one of the biggest threats might actually be coming from foreign tech giants.
Facebook will buy Zalo Pay?
Facebook started testing out social commercial payment methods for users in Thailand in 2016 and has been looking to enter the Vietnamese market. Last year, the Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank, a unit run by Vietnam’s army, reportedly teamed up with popular social media site Facebook to pilot Facebook Payment in Vietnam.
Facebook announced its payment feature in March 2015 which allows users to send and receive money over its Messenger messaging app. The feature lets users connect their Visa or MasterCard debit card and tap a “$” button to send friends money on iOS, Android, and desktop with zero fees.
The social networking giant began expanding its financial services business overseas in 2016 when it registered Facebook Payments International Limited in Ireland, then in Spain.