There are an approximate 1.5 billion credit cards in use worldwide. The total number of mobile phone subscribers, on the other hand, is around 5 billion - a gap of 3.5 billion.
While a majority of Western users have a bank card, in emerging markets most don’t. At the same time, smartphone ownership in emerging economies is growing the quickest. Such consumers need to rely on digital alternatives instead of traditional payment methods (cash & credit cards). For businesses, this shift represents a big challenge, and an even bigger opportunity. Alternative payment methods can be hard to integrate, but offer more convenience and better conversion rates. In many cases, they can also greatly expand a business’ reach, especially in developing markets.
So how can you integrate these payment methods into your checkout process? Below, we’ll show you how businesses across different verticals use mobile wallets, Bitcoin payments and carrier billing help their customers pay for purchases.
A mobile wallet is essentially a software application that allows customers to store money and make payments digitally through their phones. According to Juniper Research, there will be 1.5 billion mobile wallet users by 2018, representing nearly a fifth of the world’s population.
Mobile wallets are a particularly promising alternative in developing markets where consumers don’t have ready access to institutional banking or traditional payment methods. India, for example, had just 22.7M credit card users at the end of December 2015. On the other hand, the country’s top mobile wallet provider, PayTM, crossed 100M users nearly a year ago.
This growth in users has been accompanied by a change in the way mobile wallets work as well. Instead of acting as mere payment gateways, more and more mobile wallet apps now work as full-fledged platforms, allowing customers to pay bills, shop for groceries and book flight tickets through their phones.
For businesses, this built-in audience, along with easy integration, is particularly attractive. Which is why a growing number of startups and businesses now use mobile wallets as their preferred payment method.
Let’s take a look at a few examples:
BookMyShow, India’s biggest digital ticketing solution, provides its’ consumers with a large number of payment methods for booking movie or event tickets.
Take a look at their checkout page:
Mobile wallets (along with carrier billing - but we’ll get to that later) get their own separate tab in the payment methods menu.
Once you select a payment method, you’re taken to the mobile wallet login page. Here, you just have to enter a One-Time Password (OTP) sent to your phone to finish the purchase.
If you already have cash stored in your mobile wallet, the process is seamless - and faster - than credit cards.
TVFPlay is a Netflix-like platform for online-only TV shows and video shorts. While most videos are free to watch, there is a rental fee for the longer, “premium” content.
The only way to pay for this content is through PayTM, which acts as a credit/debit card processor as well as a mobile wallet.
Selecting a video and clicking the payment button takes you to the PayTM landing page:
Here, you can use your credit/debit card or internet banking account to pay for the video. Alternatively, you can use saved cash in your PayTM wallet to finish the purchase.
Although Bitcoin has failed to take off as once expected, it is still being offered as a payment option by an increasingly larger pool of vendors.
Part of the reason for this growth is the steady increase in total number of daily Bitcoin transactions over the last two years:
However, it’s important to understand that for all its hype, Bitcoin is still a niche currency. Its total users aren’t expected to top 5 million until 2019.
Yet, adding Bitcoin as a payment method does send a signal to your customers: that you embrace technology and care about privacy. For some businesses with a tech-savvy clientele, this can be a powerful branding tool.
Let’s take a look at how Bitcoin works as a payment method:
Namecheap, a domain registration and web hosting services provider, was one of the first large businesses to adopt Bitcoin. This aligned with the company’s brand positioning as a privacy advocate.
Here’s how the Bitcoin payment process works on Namecheap: after adding a product to your cart, click on “Select other payment options” on the payment page:
The only way to pay via Bitcoin is to add funds to your account:
On the next screen, choose Bitcoin:
Namecheap uses Bitpay to process Bitcoin payments. Just enter your payment amount and click on “Go to Bitpay” to complete the purchase:
On this vastly popular social news site, members can upgrade to a premium membership with extra features (called “Reddit Gold”) and pay using Bitcoin.
Here’s how it works: on the Reddit Gold payment page, you have to choose Bitcoin as your payment method:
On the next page, you’ll be asked to forward a payment to the listed address, or use a Coinbase wallet.
Once Reddit confirms the receipt, your purchase will go live.
As we saw earlier, there is a large (and growing) gap between the total number of credit card users and mobile subscribers. This is particularly true in emerging markets where credit card adoption is growing at a significantly slower pace than mobile adoption.
Carrier billing is an effective method to reach customers in these markets through a party they are already familiar with - the telecom operator. Any purchase made under this method is either added to the customer’s phone bill (in case of postpaid connections), or deducted from his credit balance (in case of prepaid connections).
Carrier billing has seen biggest success in the emerging markets: India, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe. For example, when news content aggregator NewsHunt leveraged Vodafone’s network for payments, it was able to drive 20x more eBook transactions than conventional payment methods.
There are three reasons why carrier billing is so successful:
- Convenience: No need to enter lengthy payment information.
- Accessibility: No sign-up requirements; can work on low-end mobile devices as well.
- Trustworthiness: Payments are processed through the telecom operator, a business consumers are already familiar with. This method is particularly effective for small impulse purchases such as a song or a video. Usually, most consumers abandon a purchase when asked to enter credit card details for such minor transactions as they don’t want to expose themselves to security risks or enter information manually.
Let’s take a look at how a few businesses use carrier billing in their checkout process:
Readwhere, an online marketplace for digital-only versions of print magazines offers customers the option to “pay via SMS”, i.e. carrier billing.
After choosing a product, customers can just click the 1-click mobile SMS payment button:
To confirm the purchase, they just have to message the given number or scan the on-screen QR code:
Google Play currently offers carrier billing in over 30 countries (see full list here. In the US, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and AT&T all give customers an option to purchase Google Play credits using their phones.
For example, if you’re on the Verizon Wireless network, you only need to select “Bill my Verizon Wireless account” on the payment page. Once you enter your password and hit ‘Confirm’, your payment will go through.
DittoTV is an Indian “live TV” service where customers can stream live TV content on their phones or the web. The company offers different payment plans to users, with the cheapest plan starting at just $0.15 (INR 10).
For such a small amount, carrier billing is a more viable option than credit/debit cards. Customers can opt to pay via Fortumo, which takes them to a screen similar to this:
Here, customers simply need to enter their phone number to receive a One-Time Password via SMS, which looks something like this:
To finish the purchase, customers just need to enter this four number pin into the OPT confirmation box on the site:
The whole process takes just 3 steps and doesn’t require messing around with passwords, addresses or credit card information.
BoxTV, an Indian video streaming service, offers customers access to thousands of movies and TV shows for under $2.99/month (INR 199).
Given the low price point (trial packs start at just $0.75 - INR 49) and the target customers, BoxTV uses carrier billing as the primary payment method on its site.
After logging in, customers are asked to select a plan:
On the next screen, customers simply have to enter their phone number, enter a One-Time Password (sent to their phone via SMS), and complete the purchase - a seamless process facilitated by Fortumo.
In the coming few years, mobile focused payment methods will continue to grow much faster than traditional methods. For businesses, accepting these alternative payment methods can be crucial for attracting new users, especially in emerging markets.
With the dominant role mobile devices now play in our lives, it’s a given that betting on mobile payments is betting on the future.