Ai Editorial: Digital wallets leading the alternative payments charge

19th July, 2019

Ai Editorial: How travellers transact has changed, and merchants can't ignore the role of e-Wallets and bank transfers while deciding on their payment acceptance mix, writes Ai's Ritesh Gupta.


Alternative ways to pay for travel, such as e-Wallets and bank transfers, are being used more often than cards and cash combined, according to a new report released by Amadeus and PPRO. This growth is occurring across the world with e-Wallets now twice as popular as cards in China, accounting for 49% of the country’s $155B digital travel spend.

Merchants like airlines, especially those operating in multiple countries, are looking at alternative payment methods because of several reasons:

  • Settling in a market quickly (facilitate new local payment methods with minimal development effort).
  • Checkout optimization (offering a payment method that works well with the traveller).
  • Cut down on inefficiencies (local payment methods via one technical, operational, and funding flow).

Digital wallets

In this context, digital wallets have become popular owing to the fact users can avail preloaded credentials and this fastens the online checkout experience. And China has stood out for the usage, since payment is one part of an app. What makes an app like WeChat more compelling than just invisible payments or scanning QR Codes for completing a payment is the fact an ecosystem manages transactions along with ID management and many other aspects holistically.

Companies like Union Pay, Alibaba and Tencent chose to capitalize on the fact that the card usage wasn't as penetrative as one would expect in a populous market like China, so they came up with a payment method that proved to be convenient and ubiquitous. It was available to anyone with a mobile phone or an Internet connection. It was also driven by necessity, since Chinese travellers moving outside their country needed to have an alternative to using a standard credit card. "That is total freedom for the Chinese traveller as they no longer have to rely on cash as their only form of payment while abroad," pointed out Eric Liebman, Global Head of Travel, Ingenico ePayments.  

What works in favour of these payment methods is reduced friction. In today's world of instant gratification, as acknowledged by Ingenico ePayments, travellers "demand things now". "...customers want to be able to pay without any friction and with the method they prefer. They don’t want us dictating how they pay, it’s the other way around. That means things like Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, e-wallets or even Uber-like experiences where experience is key, but payments are invisible," mentioned Liebman in a blog post.

Plus, for a merchant, one factor that goes in the favour of this form of payment is seamless convenience and built-in security. Encryption, tokenisation, and device authentication result in additional security.

"Ubiquity is one of the main key takeaways from Chinese companies. Chinese users are at a point where they are using their mobile wallet for anything. Alipay and WeChat Pay are present in online and offline stores alike, in use in China, and outside. It is an ‘all-in-one’ payment transforming solution, showing non-Chinese companies where innovation and an intimate consumer-knowledge can take them," says Rodrigo Sánchez Prandi, VP Product at payments technology specialist dLocal. "Simplicity will go a long way and it will always attract users. If you give your users ease-of-use by adding their preferred payment method, such as paying with one click, one tap, or even one smile, you are a step ahead in today’s payments’ world."

China leading the charge

According to WorldPay, this growth in China along with a surge of adoption in North America will propel eWallets to become the leading eCommerce payment method globally within five years.

With a validated business model, Chinese technology companies are taking their expertise to other markets as well. As indicated by Amadeus' report, Ant Financial, the owner of Alipay, is currently expanding beyond China. The company now has interests in Dana in Indonesia, Asceno in Thailand, Pi Pay in Cambodia, and Mynt in the Philippines, among others. It is expected that in these regions, accelerated transformation in payments will occur as a consequence, stated the report.


Hear from senior executives about eWallets in China and other Asian markets at the 8th Annual ATPS Asia-Pacific to be held in Penang, Malaysia (27-29 August, 2019).