TECHNOLOGY

Here’s Why Mobile Payments Are The Future Of Commerce

More than 5 billion people have access to mobile phones and only 1.2 billion have bank accounts. For this reason, financial institutions looking to increase their customer base are going mobile.

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BY Bill Carmody - 12 Jan 2018

Here's Why Mobile Payments Are The Future Of Commerce

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In recent years, mobile payments and mobile transactions have become increasingly popular in the commerce world, as today's consumers put a premium on convenience. Roughly 1.2 billion people have access to a bank account with payment capabilities across the globe, while there are approximately 5 billion unique mobile phone subscribers. That means that more people have access to mobile phones than bank accounts. For this reason, financial institutions looking to increase their customer base are going mobile and there are a slew of new mobile applications popping up everyday.

Mobile Payment Apps On The Rise

For an example of the proliferation of mobile payments, look no further than London. The use of mobile payment applications there has grown from the realm of online shopping and restaurants to food delivery and ride-sharing. And in the past few years, mobile payments are being used in the realm of public transportation. Recently, commuters in London have been able to use their mobile phones to pay for trains, an idea that is in the works for New York City subways in the future as well.

Mobile payments are poised to keep growing in 2018. And while some countries are lagging behind in the mobile payment realm, China is sprinting ahead and embracing mobile payments. The country demonstrates how best to utilize mobile payments and these lessons are valuable for other countries and cyber currency financial institutions around the globe.

Globally, China Is Leading Mobile Payment Adoption

According to Analysys International, a China-based market research group, mobile transactions totaled 29.49 trillion yuan during the third quarter of 2017. That's the equivalent of $4.5 trillion US dollars. According to the report released this month, that's a roughly 3.3-fold gain from the same time period a year earlier. The total amount of mobile transactions during the first nine months of 2017 was 71 trillion yuan.

Among the top competitors in China's mobile payment industry are Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings. The two companies dominated the mobile payments market in the third quarter of 2017, with a combined share of 93 percent. This amounted to 54 percent for Alipay and 39 percent for WeChat Pay.

And according to a report by iResearch, a market research and consulting company, 2017 wasn't the first year mobile payments were widespread in China. In 2016, China saw $9 trillion in mobile payments and iResearch predicts that number only increased further in 2017.

Alipay and WeChat Pay Dominated by Mobile Payments

Alipay, a third-party mobile and online payment platform, is leading the way. According to iResearch, 82 percent of the transactions made by Alipay's 520 million users were made using mobile devices. Another platform, WeChat Pay, has more than 200 million linked payment accounts.

New mobile payment applications like these are leading to a decline in cash transactions. According to iResearch, cash transactions have gone down by 10 percent in the past two years and researchers believe that number decreased even more in 2017.

Mobile Payments Also Benefit from the Rise of Cryptocurrency

Mobile payments provide a high level of convenience for users, but they also provide a necessary space for people wanting to process cashless payments. As cryptocurrencies and other cyber currencies continue to rise in popularity, people will need ways to exchange these funds. These currencies exist outside of traditional banking institutions and in order to gain credibility, cryptocurrency users need solutions that allow them to easily transfer funds. They also need more businesses to embrace mobile payments so that they can use cyber currencies to pay for goods and services.

Blockchain mobile payment company TelCoin is working in this realm and has developed partnerships with telecom companies in an effort to provide secure and convenient payment options to mobile users who don't have access to a bank account. According to Claude Eguienta, TelCoin co-founder and CEO, this partnership allows the company to "provide financial services to billions of people."

In light of these and other developments it's clear that China won't be the only country seeing widespread adoption of mobile payments. According to an analysis by BI Intelligence, a research service from Business Insider, in-store mobile payments in the United States are expected to advance steadily at a 40 percent compound annual growth rate. BI Intelligence predicts they will hit $128 billion in 2021.

Europe and Africa Are Not Too Far Behind

And in Europe, the use of mobile payments is also growing. AndroidPay and ApplePay, two smartphone driven applications are used more widely in Europe than in the United States. And as a testament to the popularity of these applications in Europe, last year Sweden-based mobile payment company iZettle raised $150 million in funding.

But mobile payment applications aren't just being adopted on the continents of Asia, Europe and North America. Africa is even getting in on the action. While some might believe that the continent, with many underdeveloped countries, wouldn't be the prime location for mobile payments to thrive, the lack of infrastructure the makes it especially suited for mobile banking. According to payments and commerce analytics company PYMNTS, Africa has the second most mobile payment users in the world.

It's clear that mobile payments will be integral to the future of commerce. And more companies in the United States will need to embrace them in order to compete -- especially as more Americans decide to invest in cryptocurrencies and upcoming ICOs.

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