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Should brands embrace mobile payments?

In a connected world, where information and entertainment is available at your fingertips, what more does the consumer expect? Convenience.

After all, convenience is what has driven mankind to produce some of the world’s most celebrated technological inventions. Be it the kitchen refrigerator in 1834, credit cards in the 1950s, or most recently, three-dimensional printing, convenience has been key to creating simpler, easier and faster lives for one and all.

Convenience has also been at the heart of the invention of the mobile phone, which, today, has changed the way we lead our lives. We no longer communicate the way we used to. We no longer do business in the same way either. As a result, we no longer live like we used to.

The purpose of the mobile phone has changed. We communicate through applications such as WhatsApp and WeChat, we obtain our daily dose of news and updates from sources such as Yahoo! News and Buzzfeed, and we plan our day-to-day lives using Evernote and Workflowy.

Our mobile phones are almost a key to how we operate our day-to-day lives and this is why a large proportion of marketers and brands have shifted their focus towards mobile and enabling consumers to use mobile for their day-to-day needs.

‘Mobile payments’ mark the next stage in the evolution of the function of a mobile phone. However, despite the success of digital payment options such Paypal, brands have not completely embraced mobile payments as a part of their mcommerce strategy.

Why may this be so? Recent events, such as the scare of the Heartbleed Bug raises concerns around the safety of personal and payment information. Furthermore, the lack of a universal payment method leaves integrators with options that are often incompatible with each other. This usually results in increased costs for brands looking to implement a comprehensive mobile payment system.

But despite these challenges, the uptake of mobile payments in Asia has been encouraging.

Growing consumer receptivity
Consumer receptivity to mobile payments in the region has become increasingly positive with research and reports echoing a similar image – that the APAC region is embracing mobile payment as a safe and secure form of payment. According to a study by Gartner, it is predicted that the Asia Pacific region will overtake Africa to become the largest region by transaction value, reaching USD 165 billion by 2016.

Research conducted by Nielsen in September 2013 shows that nearly half (49 per cent) of the respondents in Hong Kong felt comfortable with shopping online and using mobile payment options as long as their personal information is protected, while a global average came in at 54 per cent. In the same survey, 60 per cent of Singaporeans were found to prefer cashless payment solutions such as mobile payments utilising credit or debit cards.

Early adopters of mobile transactions are seeing great results. For instance, a mobile campaign conducted by Tencent and Mercedes Benz in China, saw 388 cars sold via mobile transactions and 1,751 down-payments made, all within three minutes.

What this means for brands is that the consumers perception of mobile payments is transforming from a value-added service to an expectation, i.e. from an alternative to a preference and not just for low-value daily use products, but for big-ticket items such as luxury vehicles as well.

Access to consumer data
Mobile payments may provide easier access to a goldmine of information on a consumer’s mobile device, such as preferences, buying patterns and budgets. Traditionally, this information could only be attained via research and surveys conducted by market research agencies — a tedious and time-consuming process.

The function of mobile payment now leaves an electronic trail that can be traced back to the user, providing brands with accurate and timely information. This information opens the door to real-time consumer engagement and contextual messaging, allowing brands to reach their audiences when an opportunity in their environment presents itself. This ultimately translates to greater efficiency and targeting in marketing strategies.

Streamlined shopping experience
Many brands already have mobile incorporated into their marketing strategies and understand the role it plays in engaging consumers. However, it is a point to note that the path to purchase doesn’t end at consumer engagement, it ends when a product or service is purchased and paid for.

Mobile payments, as a result, act as the finishing touch to your mobile marketing strategies, giving customers the opportunity to complete the purchase while the message sent across in your campaign is still fresh.

The availability of such payment options can even encourage purchasing decisions as it presents a streamlined process to the consumer, giving them the ability to do everything on mobile, and most importantly, on the go. Without needing to physically go down to a retailer to complete the purchase, you are also effectively reducing the time a consumer can take to rethink the purchase.

So yes, there might be a few kinks left to iron out in the process, but mobile payments solutions provide a definitive advantage to brands that have heavy investments in mobile strategies. With the mobile market in APAC constantly growing and evolving, moving payments onto the same platform seems like the way forward in the ever-changing landscape of marketing.

Rohit Dadwal

The author, Rohit Dadwal, is the Managing Director of Mobile Marketing Association APAC.
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