Unlikely as this may sound, remote regions of China are seeing the fastest, in some cases amazing, growth in mobile payments. Over half of Tibet’s online purchases are made using mobiles. This according to Alipay, the payments part of Alibaba, the Chinese social media and e-commerce giant recently listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Ignoring that irony and any comments about monopolies that might spring to mind, Alipay now has 300 million subscribers. Clearly, in China, whatever the question online, the answer is Alibaba.
This might come across as quite calming news. Everyone in China will use their own, home grown solution and customers will know where they are and therefore be happy. Sadly, or not, this is not going to continue. Tim Cook, who rushed to China recently to calm fears that the Greatfire.org attack was nothing to worry about, said that Apple Pay will soon be available in China (with its 857 million users waiting with open arms). So even China will be confused.
The overwhelming problem with mobile payments is that, like standards, there are too many to choose from.
One article, being helpful to merchants, contrasts and compares 27 different mobile payment options.
About half of these options we have not heard of, including Breadcrumb, Innerfence and PaySimple (with that all important capital squatting in the middle of the name).
This is the crux of the problem. With so many payments solutions, merchants will not want to invest in one until it is sure of success. And with 27 players in the game (including ISIS – the payments one, still in the game, according to the list), it is unlikely that there will be a clear winner, indeed it is unlikely that there will even be semi-finalists.
The winners, if winners there be, will be the ones that deliver the best customer experience, that moment when the customer and the merchant meet in perfect harmony.
It will be a challenge. And it will require complete openness.