U Plan, the cross-border marketing service platform launched by UnionPay International in July, has become popular with customers as it allows them to get promotion information and enjoy discounts. More than 1,200 stores outside mainland China have taken part in U Plan as of the end of 2016. These merchants are selected by UnionPay International based on their transaction data for the past few years, and are the most popular shopping malls and brand stores, located in hot tourist destinations including Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Japan.
“I know that many overseas stores offer discounts for UnionPay cards, but when traveling abroad, I might forget which these merchants are. And most of the discounts I’ve enjoyed were found only by chance,” a customer using a U Plan coupon at the King Power duty free shop in Thailand said. “With U Plan, everything is different. I’ve booked airline tickets and hotel rooms via Ctrip and received promotion information immediately. And it’s very convenient to use the coupons. I add them to my collection upon receipt, and then I can check them even without wifi when traveling abroad.”
Adopting mobile Internet technology, U Plan offers location-based services, accurate marketing and instant discounts for cross-border consumption. Now, customers are able to get exclusive U Plan coupons via the mobile phone applications of 13 institutions including banks, travel agencies and retailers. First, customers can find U Plan in the UnionPay International and ICBC mobile phone apps. Second, customers can receive coupons that can be used at their travel destinations on their mobile phones after booking air tickets or hotel rooms via Ctrip and CYTS. By presenting the coupons in store and paying with UnionPay cards, customers can enjoy the highest discounts available. Since its launch in July, millions of U Plan coupons have been downloaded and used. It enhances cardholder engagement and substantially boosts sales for participating merchants.
More recently, merchants in Japan have started to adopt U Plan. About 400 offline shops of the Matsumoto Kiyoshi drugstore are participating and the largest duty free shop in Japan, LAOX, came onboard in mid-January.
According to the Japan Tourism Agency, more than 20 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2016, and a quarter of them were from mainland China. Yet, it is worth noting that the appetite of Chinese tourists for shopping in the country is waning due to the strong yen. The average Chinese tourist’s spend in Japan from June to September was about 220,000 yen (13,000 yuan), a 20% year-on-year decrease. In this context, retailers in Japan are seeking to employ more attractive marketing tactics to offer better services to UnionPay cardholders. Taking part in U Plan is one of the significant measures they are adopting.
In Japan, about 500,000 merchants and 80,000 ATMs accept UnionPay. These merchants include duty-free shops, department stores, appliance chain stores, drugstores and 90% of convenience stores. More and more customers are using UnionPay cards when visiting Japan. Since last year, payments via UnionPay have taken the largest market share of foreign tourists’ card payments in Japan.