digital wallets
Editor's Choice Paytech World-Region-Country

Digital Wallets Are More Revolutionary in Emerging Markets, Not Developed Ones Reveals Industry

Payments are arguably the face of fintech. When you think about financial technology, it is easy to think about solutions which are making payments faster, easier and more accessible.

Paytech development has skyrocketed across the globe, with one of the main payment methods adopted being digital wallets. To understand how different geographies have used digital wallets, we reached out to the industry.

Old news for developed countries
Aaron Rafferty, CEO, StandardDAO
Aaron Rafferty, CEO, StandardDAO

Aaron Rafferty, CEO, StandardDAO, the decentralised treasury, notes that developed countries have had the technology for a while, whereas in emerging markets, they are revolutionising payments.

Digital wallets are a revolution, but not for most in developed countries. In fact, those living in the United States and similar have had digital wallets for many years now with most stores having NFC readers and phones having functions like Apple Pay and Google Pay since 2014.

“From the streets of Lagos to Mumbai’s slums, crypto-powered apps on cheap smartphones are bringing many of the world’s poor onto global financial systems for the first time. Informal economies are stepping into the open, enabling people to save, invest and do business like never before without access to providers like JP Morgan or HSBC.”

Manual card number entry is a preferred payment method in the US
Matt Miller, vice president of product, Paze
Matt Miller, vice president of product, Paze

While digital wallets may not be anything new in developed markets, Matt Miller, vice president of product, Paze, the digital bank wallet, notes how they are not the most popular payment choice available to users.

“Digital wallets have tried to provide consumers the convenience and security during e-commerce transactions – with some success. Despite all the entrants in the space, the e-commerce checkout experience is still rife with friction and none of the existing wallet solutions have solved the problem for consumers en masse.

“While digital wallets have made some strides in addressing these issues, a surprising 71 per cent of US consumers still resort to manual card number entry at guest checkout when shopping online. This reliance on manual input not only introduces the potential for errors but also results in abandoned shopping carts and lost sales, all of which drives the need for a smoother and better-engineered checkout process.

“Research also indicates that consumers prefer and trust bank-provided wallets over existing checkout options like a smartphone manufacturer, tech company, retailer or telecom provider.”

Developed markets have less incentive to adopt digital wallets
Robin Yan, CEO and co-founder of Fana digital wallets
Robin Yan, CEO and co-founder of Fana

Robin Yan, co-founder and CEO, FANA, the philanthropic community for mobile native users, explains how emerging payment methods can struggle for adoption in developed markets due to users being stuck in their old ways of paying.

“Digital wallet adoption is more rapid in developing regions across Asia and Africa compared to mature markets, largely due to three key factors.

“First, the existing banking infrastructure in these regions is often poor and outdated. Second, there’s a high risk of fraud in cash transactions. Third, digital wallets in these areas are typically integrated with widely used consumer products. For instance, in China, WeChat Pay and Alipay evolved from messaging and e-commerce platforms, respectively, and now have over a billion users each. Similarly, in Southeast Asia, GrabPay and GoPay originated from ride-sharing apps and have become widely used.

“In contrast, ‘Western’ financial markets are more developed, reducing the incentive to adopt new payment methods. Digital wallets in these markets will need to be built off of high-utility consumer applications, like last-mile logistics or e-commerce (e.g. ShopPay).”

Sharp adoption has died down
Paul Staples, group head of embedded banking, ClearBank, digital wallets
Paul Staples, group head of embedded banking, ClearBank

Also analysing the impact digital wallets have had in emerging markets, Paul Staples, group head of embedded banking, ClearBank, the banking API provider, said: “Initially, advanced transportation systems in major cities such as London, Singapore and Sydney, saw a rapid adoption of digital wallets and the precursor of pre-paid cards.

“This momentum has slowed, however, in favour of the debit and credit card. The US has seen a lower level of adoption at all age groups relative to other peer countries, but this is no surprise for a country wedded to the cheque.

“Globally, we need to think of digital wallets not simply as front ends on a mobile phone but more as a lubricant for better financial outcomes. Sectors with complex financial processing will begin to operate digital wallets more frequently, but these may well be more internally focused use cases than those that result in an end customer.”

Digital wallets are a lifeline in Asia and LatAm
Kurt Wuckert Jr., chief Bitcoin historian, CoinGeek digital wallets
Kurt Wuckert Jr., chief Bitcoin historian, CoinGeek

In emerging economies, one of the biggest issues faced is access to finance. Many fintech have found success in these regions due to democratising finance. Kurt Wuckert Jr., chief Bitcoin historian, CoinGeek, the blockchain and crypto news site, explains how digital wallets have played a role in enabling this.

“Amid a global cost-of-living crisis, digital wallets have emerged as a beacon of hope for financial agility. As traditional banking feels shaky and employment is still confusingly low, people worldwide are pivoting to the swift, cost-effective haven of digital assets.

“Particularly in regions hit hardest by economic turmoil, like parts of Latin America and Southeast Asia, digital wallets are not just a convenience—they’re a lifeline for locals engaging in commerce and migrant workers sending money across borders. Blockchain assets, bypass hefty transaction fees and speed up settlement, a crucial advantage when every cent counts.

“But it’s not just about saving money; it’s about accessibility. Digital wallets democratise various financial services, empowering unbanked or underbanked populations with tools once reserved for the financially privileged. We’re seeing a surge in adoption in these areas, where digital wallets become crucial savings and spending tools. Hopefully, we don’t see another cascade of confiscations and bankruptcies or ‘rug pulls’ as we saw with various DeFi apps or Celsius, BlockFi and other gray market, pseudo-banks.”

Author

  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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