Given the size of the U.S. market in the global scheme of things, we sometimes overlook trends elsewhere, which can hamper prospects for merchants who could easily engage customers in overseas markets.
To get a snapshot of mobile commerce today and where the market is headed through the end of this decade, London-based global technology research and advisory firm Ovum conducted extensive research on the topic and released forecasts in February 2016.
Ovum projected the global user base for mobile payments will reach 4.77 billion users in 2019, up from 689.99 million in 2014. And of the three segments it measured – m-commerce, person-to-person mobile money transfers and mobile proximity payments – m-commerce is expected to capture the largest share of the global market in number of users and transaction value.
By the end of 2019, it predicted that total global transaction value for m-commerce will exceed $693 billion, up from the $171 billion projected for this year. Ovum cited as contributing factors the widespread use of increasingly powerful smartphones with larger screens and the fact that more retailers are optimizing their websites for mobile shoppers.
"Smartphones have become a platform that can support the whole shopping journey, from product search and discovery, through comparisons and recommendations, to payments," said Eden Zoller, Principal Analyst, Consumer Services and Payments, at Ovum.
With the world's largest population hovering at 1.367 billion in 2015, China will be the country to watch. As a rising star in mobile commerce, China is expected to have more than 370 million m-commerce users by 2019, which means that over the next three years China will grow to become the largest m-commerce user base in the world, according to Ovum.
Over this period China is expected to move into second position behind the United States in total m-commerce transaction value generated. Ovum predicted China will amass $79.36 billion in total m-commerce transaction value in 2019; the U.S. figure was not available at press time.
"Players such as Alibaba and Tencent are galvanizing the Chinese market, along with a fast-growing, more affluent, middle-class customer base and young people that are mobile-first and view smartphones as the center of their digital lives," Zoller said.
Also hoping to capitalize on rising affluence in the Chinese market is Apple Inc. As an early contender from outside China, Apple wisely teamed with China UnionPay to extend Apple Pay coverage to Chinese consumers.
On February 17, 2016, Apple Pay officially launched in China and within the first few days, 3 million Chinese shoppers had reportedly activated payment cards within their mobile wallets. As a comparison, when Apple first launched Apple Pay in the U.S. market in 2014, 1 million users initially signed on within the first few days.
With the readiness of the Chinese market, in both affluence and smartphone adoption, China is on course to become one of the largest consumer markets the world has ever witnessed. U.S. merchants on board with this trend could benefit in selling to this market, which by nearly every account is hungry for American products.
When examining mobile proximity payments, both near field communication (NFC) and non-NFC, traction for NFC has been slow across the vast majority of mature markets and almost non-existent in emerging markets, according to Ovum. However, NFC usage as a payment mechanism is expected to see dramatic gains.
Ovum estimated that by 2019, there will be 1.09 billion mobile proximity payment users globally, of which just over 939 million will be NFC. It also projected that total global value of mobile proximity payments (both NFC and non-NFC) will increase from $92.2 million this year to $1.09 billion in 2019.
"Factors driving growth include wider merchant support for NFC across point-of-sale (POS) acceptance infrastructure, which in the U.S. is being helped by the upgrades to EMV," Zoller said. "The adoption of host card emulation (HCE) is also helping, providing a more flexible way of implementing NFC. At the same time, NFC is being championed more widely across the ecosystem by players such as Apple, Google, PayPal, and Samsung."
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