Why Does China Excel in Mobile Payments?

digital payments in China (source: thestar.com.my)

A lot of you may wonder, why China excels so much in payments given that it is still an emerging country. At PayPal HQ San Jose, in Silicon Valley, we hold a bi-weekly meetup for Chinese employees and external speakers to share topics about technology industry insights, entrepreneurship, VCs, etc. Last Friday, we invited a FinTech research and partnership expert, to share his insights on payments in China, and here is what he had to say.

(source: eurobiz.com.cn)

China FinTech Highlights

China as a FinTech Empire

  • As the world’s largest mobile payments market, China’s market is estimated to be worth $6.3 trillion in total mobile payments by 2020.
  • Payment app usage is the highest in China, with an estimated 81.4% of smartphone users accessing such apps in 2019. The user base primarily relies on Ant Financial’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay.

Domestic Dominance in FinTech: Duopoly of WeChat Pay and Alipay

  • Alipay and Tenpay collectively hold a 90% share of China’s third-party mobile payments market.
  • Mobile commerce, a lack of legacy infrastructure, and marketplaces have fueled China’s enormous success.
  • Consumers in China are much more comfortable shopping on their mobile phones compared with their counterparts in the US.

Global Payments

China is among countries with high proximity mobile payment adoption: an estimated 81.4% of smartphone users in China will access mobile payment apps in 2019.

Data Source: eMarketer | Consolidated by Sharon Cui & Kerena Yang

Our speaker mentioned the “9+1 pattern” of global payment, which stands for 9 emerging countries with the lead of “One Belt, One Road”, from Alipay China. Ant Financial is forming joint ventures with the 9 countries’/regions’ digital wallet firms:

  1. India — Paytm
  2. Thailand — Gateway
  3. Korea — Kakao Pay
  4. Philippines — GCash
  5. Hong Kong, China — Alipay HK
  6. Malasia — Touch ‘n Go
  7. Indonesia — DANA
  8. Pakistan — Easypaisa
  9. Bangladesh — bKash

In these countries, Ant Financial is investing huge stakes in its “digital wallet brothers”, that are using their local brands and languages to operate.

US Compared with China

US is expected to generate $580 billion in mobile payments by 2019 which equates to just 11% of China’s mobile payment volume.

Data Source: eMarketer | Consolidated by Sharon Cui & Kerena Yang

The US mobile payment market is fractured: consumers have a variety of payment options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay which has combined into an inconsistent checkout experience.

Data Source: eMarketer | Consolidated by Sharon Cui & Kerena Yang

Chinese FinTech Major Players

Chinese Major Mobile Payment Players: WeChat Pay and Alipay all together drive close to 90% of the mobile payment transactions.

Data Source: CB Insights | Consolidated by Sharon Cui & Kerena Yang

Various use cases include Didi Chuxing (“Chinese Uber”), the largest car sharing service in China, Meituan (“Chinese DoorDash + Yelp”), the largest food delivery service in China, and WeChat Red Packets (Tribute to a Chinese Lunar New Year, when children are given red envelopes with cash as gifts).

Unlike in the US, where people are transitioning from credit cards and debit cards to digital wallets, in China, people are adapting mobile payments directly from cash. They skip the step of using cards and have transitioned to mobile payments. As shown below, cash is only more acceptable when mobile payments are not accepted and card payments are even less accepted.

Source:eMarketer, Ipsos, Juniper | Consolidated by Sharon Cui and Kerena Yang

Tencent: WeChat’s History

Launched in 2013, WeChat Pay is embedded into Tencent’s massively popular mobile communication platform, WeChat. The launch of WeChat red packets in 2014 spawned the use of WeChat Pay that coincided with the rise of online ride-hailing. Many observers view the ingenuity behind the red packets as pure genius: taking a beloved cultural phenomenon, and turning it into a game that builds and fosters social interactions, driving customer acquisition costs down to zero.

How WeChat Pay Evolves | Data Source: Ipsos

Ant Financial: Established in 2015 as Alibaba’s online financial services affiliate

Ant Financial’s Product Portfolio | Data Source: CB Insights
(source: Alibaba Group Investor Day)

Why China leads the world in mobile payments?

  • E-commerce boom
  • Social Media prevalence
  • Lack of existing physical payment infrastructure and low-cost QR code

For more information, visit Wharton Fintech for the reasons that China grows more rapidly than the world in fintech.

Industry information provided by eMarketer, CB Insights and Ipsos. Original article is posted at the author’s medium page.