Joyce Lam
Joyce is a Senior Trends Analyst at Mintel, focusing on capturing consumer behaviour for the Asia Pacific market, as well as supporting the global Mintel Trends team to identify new consumer trends.

Alipay is updating its face-scanning machines in stores across China with a new feature that involves beautifying filters—all in a bid to improve face-scanning adoption at points of sale. The machines are able to ‘thin’ and ‘lighten’ the image, which are beautiful and admirable characteristics, according to Chinese consumers, especially women.


According to Mintel research, almost two-thirds of Chinese online shoppers are happy to use biometric data identification to pay. In addition, the selfie culture has become deeply ingrained in everyday life for most Chinese consumers.

We have seen phones and apps with beautifying filters, such as Meitu, become popular with women who are less likely to post a photo of themselves on social media without any beautification done. This indicates that these female consumers might feel a little self-conscious when having their photos taken at the point of sale.

This shows how critical it is for service providers and retailers to help consumers feel comfortable when adopting new technology into their lives, by catering to their habits, addressing their fears and appealing to them emotionally to encourage behavioural change.

With the new feature, Alipay addresses the concerns of primarily women who are hesitant to scan their faces for payment because they think they don’t look nice or want their image stored. Alipay has assured users that their scanned images will disappear when they move away from the machine and will not be stored. Only the necessary data, based on customers’ facial features, is collected, which is then encrypted with an algorithm and used solely for payments.

Mintel is seeing more and more companies taking the necessary steps to positively influence consumers to uptake emerging technologies. With almost 1.4 billion people, China has numerous dialects that vary according to region—posing significant challenges for the development and usage of voice-controlled smart devices. With this in mind, e-commerce giant Alibaba announced that it will be working with linguistic experts, universities and other institutions to set up a dialect database that will ultimately benefit the functionalities of its voice-activated smart speakers. It will start with the Sichuan dialect first before branching out to other dialects in the future.

What we think

Cashless transactions are now the norm among Chinese consumers. Payment by biometric technology, such as facial recognition, has also become more pervasive in various aspects of people’s lives and increasingly acceptable among consumers. However, this poses new challenges to payment service providers like Alipay; they will need to meet basic needs, like data security and convenience, to enhance consumers’ payment or shopping experiences, and help their retail partners deliver a personal touch while safeguarding consumers’ personal data.