Mobile payments top NFC application in Asia

Payments based on near-field communications taking off in region due to high mobile adoption and market maturity, and companies should tap consumer behavior to tailor offerings, say industry players.

COMMUNICASIA, SINGAPORE--Mobile payments is the fastest-growing application of near-field communications (NFC) within the Asia region, spurred on by factors such as high mobile device adoption and business maturity, states one industry watcher.

Richard Besenbruch, marketing & business development director of ID Solutions at Datacard Asia-Pacific and Japan, said that there is a broad set of NFC applications today, which include identification, proximity payments, smart posters and e-tickets. Mobile payments, though, will be the "killer application" for the region, he said. The executive was speaking at a forum Wednesday, during the four-day CommunicAsia 2012 tradeshow. 

Elaborating, he said the rapidly growing mobile device ownership in Asia-Pacific, particularly in emerging markets that skipped the PC stage and moved directly to mobile, is one primary driver for mobile payments. Frost & Sullivan had earlier forecasted that NFC-enabled smartphones will grow to 863 million by 2015, he noted.

Mobile payment transactions is also growing strongly in this part of the world, Besenbruch added. Citing a Euromonitor study in March, he said Asia's financial transactions on mobile devices have outstripped other regions, with China overtaking the United States in terms of credit card distribution. In fact, Asia's transaction growth shows an 8 percent compound annual growth rate, headed by emerging markets China, India and Indonesia.

On the business end, the mobile payments market has also hit the stage of "environmental maturity", with strong infrastructure and big players involved in the ecosystem, he observed.

Take advantage of consumer behavior
With such opportunities available, mobile payments developers should employ strategies to keep ahead of its competitors and one method is to take advantage of consumers' behavior trends, suggested Kit Wong, director of country sales operations at Google Asia-Pacific. 

The executive, who spoke at the same forum as Bresenbruch on Wednesday, said mobile technology is now at the center of people's lives and many use it for shopping and searching out the best prices and deals, so companies should capitalize on this trend.

They can, for instance, create a good mobile payments experience by eliminating the amount of details users have to key in to their devices to increase efficiency, said Wong. Alternatively, they can encourage merchants to introduce loyalty programs and entice users to use their mobile payments option to be rewarded, he added.