In China, striving for accuracy in a piece of facial recognition software isn’t enough. As Alibaba’s e-wallet affiliate Alipay has recently demonstrated, the way software presents a user’s look is also crucial to its success.
On Tuesday, Alipay announced on social media platform Weibo (in Chinese) that it’s added beauty filters to its pay-with-face system inside the app. Within a week, the feature will roll out across retail stores equipped with Alipay’s face-scanning solutions.
“We are going to make you look even prettier than with a beauty camera. I bet you’ll be impressed,” Alipay wrote on Weibo.
The new feature was created to address complaints that facial recognition machines make people look ugly. A new poll (in Chinese) ran by news portal Sina Technology showed that more than 60% of respondents think they look uglier through the next-gen payments method than on a regular camera. This could be a real concern for beauty-obsessed people who, at a busy supermarket checkout, find their face displayed unflatteringly on a large computer screen.
The chase of beauty in China has spawned a handful of movers and shakers in the internet space, from Hong Kong-listed selfie-app maker Meitu to plastic surgery marketplace So-Young that recently raised $180 million from a Nasdaq public listing.
Will WeChat Pay, the payments solution of messaging giant WeChat, follow in Alipay’s shadow to build a similar offering? Beauty filters can be a competitive advantage to a business, if not a necessity. In an effort to draw more female users, smartphone maker Xiaomi recently joined with Meitu to develop new models that place more focus on selfies, stickers and graphics.
Alipay boasts more than one billion monthly active users of late. WeChat doesn’t break out the number for its payments segment, but said in March the service processed more than one billion daily transactions.