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Mobile technology is rapidly becoming an integral part of the way that many people manage their finances and make everyday payments, with the popularity of mobile banking apps and dedicated mobile payment tools such as Apple Pay growing all the time. This is particularly true in the Asia-Pacific region, where new research is suggesting that payments made via these solutions are set for ‘explosive’ growth over the next few years.

The figures come from International Data Corporation (IDC), which forecast that total worldwide mobile payments will surpass $1 trillion in value in 2017 – a 124 per cent rise from the less than $500 billion expected this year. And Asia-Pacific will be one of the major contributors to this, as both developed and emerging markets increase their use of these payments.

Key trends driving the increase

Advanced smartphone and tablet devices that allow people to conduct much of their online activities without the need for a desktop or laptop PC is a key factor in this, as is the fact these devices are now far more affordable for consumers in developing markets, where network connectivity is also growing at a fast rate. As emerging nations come online for the first time, smartphones will be the device of choice for many new internet banking users. This is leading directly to rising levels of m-commerce, while the fact that credit and debit card take-up remains low in the region will help boost the growth of technologies such as mobile wallets.

Shiv Putcha, associate research director at IDC Asia-Pacific, commented: “Recent focus on financial inclusion policies in various countries has given a boost to connecting the unbanked. This phenomenon, coupled with the innovation of semi-closed wallet schemes linked to bank accounts, has given a major boost to mobile payments in Asia-Pacific.”

A divergence in strategy

However, IDC observed that the mobile payment trends seen will not be consistent throughout the region, with more developed economies moving in a different direction to emerging nations. For instance, established markets such as Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore are likely to follow a similar trajectory to that seen in Western Europe and North America. These nations will see a greater focus on proximity solutions based on Near Field Communications (NFC) and will be strong markets for solutions like Apple Pay and Android Pay.

However, this will not be the case in emerging markets such as China, Indonesia and India, which account for the vast majority of the region’s population and potential mobile payments users. These countries are more likely to favour semi-closed wallets, where consumers top-up their mobile wallets much as they would a prepaid mobile account by linking their bank accounts.

Challenges ahead?

While there’s plenty of reasons for optimism from the new survey, the payments industry still needs to tread carefully if it is to provide convenient, easy-to-use solutions that are tailored to the unique situations of each nation.

Whether it’s dealing with expanded regulations, raising awareness of what is available, or simply getting a foothold in cultures where cash has always been king, there is a lot of work ahead for the industry. As noted before, the diversity in the region means it’s impossible to pigeonhole the Asia-Pacific market into one solution, so businesses need to consider their approaches on a country-by-country basis to give customers what they want.


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James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Brad Strothkamp

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.