Billionaire Jack Ma, owner of payment app Alipay, seeks to lure 44 million merchants to expand services for the app’s 900 million users in everything from real estate purchases to restaurant and cinema bookings, according to a March 10 report by Bloomberg.

Alipay is aiming to attract these merchants and service providers in China with mini programs — lite apps that sit on top of its interface and provide quick access to services.

Coronavirus has boosted demand for online services

Demand for online services has reportedly surged in China since the outbreak of Coronavirus in December. He Yongming, vice president of Alipay’s open ecosystem business added that:

“We’ve seen a spike in demand for online services. This trend will only grow stronger, even after the virus outbreak ends.”

Mini programs could potentially drive 100 million Chinese small merchants to Alipay and allow the company to manage customer data, conduct promotions and marketing analysis.

Per Bloomberg’s account, Alipay has already developed about 1.7 million mini programs. Recently, 1200 developers made 181 new programs to focus on grocery deliveries, legal and medical advice after the company rolled out its Covid-19 coping incentives.

Blockchain’s role in Alipay’s Mini programs

A property service provider was reported by Alipay as having sold 110 million yuan ($16 million) worth of real estate in auctions via a mini program in only three days. It integrated Alipay’s identity verification system, a live-stream of the auction in real-time and a private blockchain that incorporated the local notary agency.

Cointelegraph reported previously that Alipay has also introduced a platform that enables charity donations and allows users to track allocation and donation of relief supplies, as well as the review, recording and tracing of demand and supply chains of medical supplies.