Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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    EDITORIAL Conquering the world one mobile payment at a time

    While it is interesting to see the UK’s 118 PRS directory enquiry services hitting the headlines– it has been a while since we saw a PRS ‘scandal’, I thought we’d moved on – what stands out in this fortnight’s headlines is which countries are the world leaders in mobile payments.

    According to data from merchant account and card payment fee comparison service Merchant Machine, China, Norway and the UK are streets ahead of all other markets when it comes to the uptake of mobile payments. And I mean streets ahead.

    China is way out in front, with 47% of mobile phone users using mobile to pay in some way, shape or form. Norway sees 42% and the UK 24%. This is compared to 20% in Japan and 19% in Australia. Everywhere else falls below the 15% mark.

    So what can we learn from this? Well, anyone connected with mobile payments should turn their attention to China: this market is so far out in front when it comes to using mobile to pay that it has much it can tell us.

    Of course, it has leapfrogged many ‘Western’ markets by moving from most people not having a phone to most now having a mobile, but this is only part of the story. What is happening in China is that companies such as WeChat and merchants such as Alibaba and JD.com make it easy for consumers to pay with mobile. In fact, they make it preferable to pay this way – they make it easy to do, easy to manage and really secure.

    This is cemented by helping develop a culture of not only P2C mobile spending, but also a growing P2P mobile payments ethos among consumers.

    This is echoes to some extent in Norway, where organisations such as Strex are also looking to make mobile payments as easy as possible for consumers. Strex, for those of you who missed their excellent presentation at World Telemedia in Marbella in October, is a company set up by the three main incumbent telcos in Norway to unilaterally act to promote direct carrier billing and mobile payments. And it has done a great job. In Norway, most major brands have embraced the technologies and, as a result, many consumers now routinely use them.

    Compare that to the UK. Here, mobile payments have grown to roughly half of what they are in China and Norway. While still impressive at 24%, this has happened largely with no help from network operators, brands or anyone else. Apple Pay and Google Pay – and Samsung Pay to some lesser extent – are popular, but only because Gen Z uses them as they are tools built into their phones: no one has pushed them to use it.

    When it comes to carrier billing, no one really pushes it at all. In the UK, you could argue that charities have done a good job of inculcating the use of carrier billing to donate, but this has so far not really translated into mainstream use of the payment tool.

    This is a pattern repeated across most other markets. While older generations still cling to their payment cards – and in some cases, their chequebooks – and viewing mobile as not only sorcery, but also insecure this is unlikely to change unless someone tells them about it.

    What the world needs is for the mass promotion of mobile as a payment channel, marketed on its security – heck, I use my faceto pay with Apple Pay, what more do you want? – and ease of use.

    Mobile payments also need to increasingly be built into things. I now opt for food delivery services that let me pay when I order in app using Apple Pay, purely because it is simple and quick. If they could do it all by PSMS, I’d go for that too.

    Perhaps with the rise of RCSin the coming years, it is time for operators to not only look at how to improve messaging technology, but also for them to look at how to build in payments tools too. Invisible payments usually means more payments – and who could argue with that?

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