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Apple Pay marks first year in S'pore as mobile payments gain traction

Real power of mobile wallets now going beyond just payments - they have become rich customer engagement platforms

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Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay offer consumers in Singapore a plethora of mobile payment choices.

Singapore

AS Apple Pay marked its first anniversary in Singapore in April, observers said that mobile payments have in the last year gained significant traction here, with the real power of mobile wallets now going beyond just payments. They are rich customer engagement platforms.

Forrester analyst Ng Zhi Ying told The Business Times that Apple Pay's launch had triggered the other mobile payment providers Samsung Pay and Android Pay to rapidly roll out such services in Singapore in 2016 - offering consumers here a plethora of mobile payment choices.

Ms Ng said: "Today, an increasing number of Singaporean consumers are getting more familiar and comfortable with paying with their mobile phones, enjoying the convenience of not having to pay with their wallets."

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Piruze Sabuncu, head of South-east Asia at payments company Stripe, said that Apple Pay has enjoyed quick adoption in Singapore as it reduces "all the friction" to making purchases on mobile devices, and enables secure transactions for both consumers and businesses.

"Mobile conversions are a challenge for most businesses. While mobile constitutes 60 per cent of online browsing, it accounts for only 15 per cent of purchases. Cumbersome mobile checkout flows are the worst offenders, requiring customers to pick out a zillion credit card and shipping details to complete a purchase."

Apple Pay considerably improves the online purchase experience for both consumers and businesses by allowing the entire checkout process to be completed with a "simple tap of the thumb", Ms Sabuncu said.

She shared that retailers last year reported that Apple Pay users were 92 per cent more likely to complete a transaction. Indiegogo saw its conversion rates grow by 2.5 times after introducing Apple Pay, while Instacart said that its customers checked out 58 per cent faster using Apple Pay.

Eric Gnock Fah, co-founder of travel concierge app Klook, said that as a mobile-first platform that focuses on travel activities and services, payment partners such as Apple Pay play an important role in "facilitating bookings" for Klook customers both pre- and in-destination.

For one thing, Klook users can instantly access and book activities such as a ride on the Hong Kong Airport Express, as well as last-minute skip-the-queue tickets outside Universal Studios Japan - by just using Apple Pay, he said.

He added: "Speed and mobility are simply too important to ignore in today's fast-paced environment, where customers demand instant fulfilment and flexibility."

Ernest Sim, chief technology officer of local healthy food startup Grain, affirmed that integrating Apple Pay onto its platform has been good for the business. "The implementation helps remove at least two taps off our checkout experience, and allows customers to have a more seamless checkout experience."

Mr Sim also noted that the integration of Apple Pay - which Stripe helped Grain do - was "really simple".

He said: "We ran an extremely lean tech team of only two people then, and the ease in developer integration freed up valuable time that could be better concentrated on core business features."

Forrester's Ms Ng pointed out that aside from Apple, Samsung and Android, a few companies have started experimenting with mobile contactless payments with wearables, such as EZ-Link's Garmin smartwatch.

The research house believes that the real power of mobile wallets lies beyond just mobile payments. A new study by senior analyst Wang Xiaofeng found that while mainstream Western mobile wallets primarily focus on payments, pioneer mobile wallets in China have taken aggressive steps and become powerful customer engagement tools.

Ms Wang cited WeChat's social gifting service, as well as Alipay's augmented reality (AR) coupons and red packets. "Their mobile wallet innovations span the customer life cycle."

She added that market-entry obstacles such as dissimilar business cultures, consumer behaviours and regulations make it unlikely that Alipay and WeChat will operate directly in other markets beyond targeting Chinese travellers.

"Mobile wallet players have been inspired by the success of Alipay and WeChat wallets. Emerging mobile wallets like PayTM in India already look like early versions of Alipay. We expect other third-party players like Apple and PayPal to morph their mobile wallets into more powerful customer engagement platforms."

Meanwhile, activity in the mobile payment space continues apace. Last month, Alibaba's financial affiliate Ant Financial said that it has acquired Singapore-based helloPay, as part of efforts to boost its Alipay brand and presence in South-east Asia. helloPay is the payment subsidiary of e-commerce firm Lazada Group (which, after a US$1-billion deal last year, is majority-owned by Alibaba) and will be rebranded as Alipay.

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