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FINANCIAL SERVICES | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Phil Pomford

Approaching the era of e-wallets in Singapore

BY PHIL POMFORD

As in many markets around the globe, retailers in Singapore now face a rapidly shifting landscape. Sales are declining, consumer demands are soaring, and new disrupters are altering the very nature of what it means to be a retail business today. Perhaps no event is more emblematic of these changes than the arrival of Amazon Prime Now earlier this summer. Offering more than 20,000 products, with doorstep delivery in just two hours, shoppers in Singapore are eagerly embracing this new way to shop – while retailers work fast to differentiate their offerings as the competition heats up.

In the race to innovate and deliver a superior shopping experience, retailers mustn’t overlook the importance of payments. Shoppers want secure, hassle-free, digitally enabled payment experiences to match the convenience they’ve come to expect of modern retail. In Singapore today, there is one payment method that retailers ought to take particular notice of – e-wallets.

E-wallets are gaining market share around the globe, and Singapore has firmly established itself as a leader in promoting and adopting this payment technology. Singapore was the first market in Southeast Asia to enjoy Samsung Pay; the second market in Asia behind China to get Apple Pay; and the third market globally, following the US and Britain, to get Android Pay. And, homegrown e-wallets abound – from the DBS PayLah! Mobile wallet which recently introduced the ability to pay and receive funds using QR codes, to Singtel Dash offering mobile payments and remittances.

With a strong network of local mobile payment services, along with the debut of three globally leading e-wallets in 2016, Singapore’s shoppers are getting an exclusive first look at the future of payments. E-wallets enable shoppers to securely store credit cards, debit cards and other forms of payment in one convenient digital purse; which can be used to pay online, within apps, and in person at stores that accept contactless mobile payments. By using their e-wallet, shoppers can pay without sharing their credit card details, full name, address and other personal data with the retailer or online merchant. And, unlike cash, an e-wallet can’t be misplaced or pickpocketed.

Because e-wallets offer a uniquely quick, easy and secure payment experience, it’s no surprise that Singapore shoppers are increasingly adopting the technology. Digital wallets in Singapore experienced a four-fold increase in consumer uptake in just one year, and now more than a quarter (26%) of cardholders in Singapore use mobile digital wallet technology.

As e-wallets continue the climb to widespread penetration in Singapore, retailers and online merchants that enhance their e-wallet acceptance capabilities now will be well positioned to capture more opportunities in the future. By making the payment experience faster, more seamless and more secure, businesses stand a better chance of winning new customers and keeping them loyal in an era when convenience is king. What’s more, e-wallets are helping retailers embrace the next generation of Omni-channel shopping; in which consumers can enjoy a seamless retail experience while hopping from one channel to the next – be it online, mobile or in-store.

Many Singaporean retailers have also discovered that e-wallets are a useful tool in generating business from not only local consumers, but foreign visitors as well. Fave, an online-to-offline mobile platform in Singapore, is now collaborating with Alibaba in China to help visitors from the Mainland use the Alipay e-wallet app to pay at Singaporean retailers and restaurants that are part of the Fave ecosystem. Alipay is the most popular e-wallet service in China, and for travellers, Alipay offers a seamless, secure and familiar way to pay when they’re away from home, or shopping online with a foreign merchant. With approximately 3 million Chinese tourists visiting Singapore every year, spending an estimated S$3.52 billion , retailers that can accommodate their e-wallet payment preferences will be better prepared to drive business from this valuable consumer segment.

Capitalising on the potential of e-wallets can help retailers answer rising consumer demands for convenience and security, investigate new Omni-channel solutions, reach out to more customers locally and globally, and capture the next wave of opportunity. At the same time, as retailers reevaluate their payment offerings in the era of the e-wallet, it’s important to remember that while the future of retail may look different, some things will never change. Consumers will always want a range of payment options from which they can choose their favourite; fast and seamless payments across multiple channels; and assurances that their security is top-of-mind. Retailers that can optimise the payment experience as they prepare for new payment solution such as e-wallets will be best positioned to win business and loyalty from savvy, digitally enabled shoppers in Singapore.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Phil Pomford

Phil Pomford

Phil Pomford is the general manger, Global eCom, APAC at Worldpay.

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