The use of mobile wallets varies hugely across the world. A recent Forrester Research study found that whilst 76% of metro Chinese consumers use mobile wallets or are interested in doing so, the same only applies to 36% of urban online consumers in the USA.
This is likely due to high card penetration in the USA, whereas cards never really too off in China. Mobile wallets like AliPay & WeChat are incredibly popular in China and have become a lifestyle product, rather than just a payment method.
They offer a high level of convenience for consumers, plus additional services that engage customers with their system such as the ability to send red envelopes on Chinese New Year to friends and family. They also allow customers to order ahead at lots of their favourite outlets, and access discount coupons whilst they shop.
There is a gap in the market in the USA and Europe for these integrated payment and lifestyle services, which could potentially be filled by the likes of Google and Apple, who already have their own mobile wallets and could further expand their services to engage their customers.
American adoption of NFC has been slow amongst merchants, many of whom have not adopted their POS terminal logic. Often times when customers try to use NFC using their smartphone, they are prompted to enter their PIN code even though they have already provided identification within their ewallet app. This is because US retailers have been so focused on implementing EMV that they have fallen behind. This makes NFC payments much less attractive, as they are no faster than EMV and offer much more in the way of user experience.
Meanwhile, Alipay is looking to expand its services into the US in order to target Chinese tourists and expats. It has announced partnerships with with several American payment processors. It will still face challenges when it comes to attracting American customers, who have different attitudes, concerns and cultural quirks from their domestic Chinese customers.