Published: 25 Oct 2023
Updated: 19 Feb 2024
Category: Business & Market Insights

What is an e-Wallet and How it Works in the Hong Kong Retail Industry


It is less of an issue to not carry a physical wallet in this day and age.

With a digital wallet, frequently referred to as an e-wallet, you have a secure digital storehouse that can authorise transactions for the purchase of goods and services.

It's like an upgraded version of your traditional wallet but stored on your smartphone, handling everything from credit cards to coupons. 

Hence, understanding and utilising digital wallets is critical for retailers. This tool can drive sales by offering a more streamlined, seamless, and convenient payment process, appealing to consumer preferences for ease and efficiency.


What is Digital Wallet

Also known as e-wallets, digital wallets are electronic devices or online services that allow users to store and manage their payment information, such as credit card details, bank account information, and other payment methods, in a secure and convenient way. Digital wallets use encryption technology to protect users' personal and financial information from unauthorized access and fraud. They can be accessed through mobile devices, computers, and other internet-enabled devices. Digital wallets enable users to make cashless transactions, such as paying bills, transferring money, purchasing goods and services online, and in-store payments using near-field communication (NFC) technology. Some of the popular digital wallets include PayPal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. Digital wallets offer a secure and convenient way to manage money, reduce the need for physical cash, and simplify payment processes.


What are the Advantages of e-Wallets

Digital wallets are no longer simply options for individual transactions but tools that have significant impacts far beyond retail sales. Many factors have contributed to this rise, changing how retailers operate and customers interact with businesses. 

Security and Better Tracking

Security concerns have made digital wallets an increasingly popular choice. Recent research from a payments platform revealed that 49% of consumers see digital wallets as more secure than other payment methods. 

This recognition largely stems from the inherent protection offered by digital wallets, eliminating the need to constantly input financial details online, an action 52% of survey participants expressed discomfort with.

Furthermore, e-wallets allow users to gain insights into their spending behaviour. Users can transparently understand and monitor their spending habits with ease, as these digital wallets let them do the following:  
●    Have real-time visibility into current balances after each transaction
●    Check transaction history
●    Set savings goals 
●    Set reminders for budgets and bill due dates

An Abundance of Choices

With the growth of the digital wallet market, retailers now have an abundance of provider choices. Each e-wallet company offers distinct services that cater to diverse needs, making it less about whether incorporating a digital wallet is necessary and more about which one fits the company's unique needs best. 

Aside from just looking into the features of various wallets, a retailer must also honestly assess its own technical capabilities and available resources. Doing so helps ease the integration of the chosen digital wallet into their payment infrastructure.

No More Expensive Software and Hardware

While retailers must consider their existing technology, this should not intimidate them into thinking digital wallets require expensive software or hardware. 

On the contrary, setting up digital wallets is fairly straightforward and cost-effective. They are designed with simplicity in mind, making them easy to implement whether you are an individual, a small business, or an enterprise. 

The goal here is for retailers to always look for convenience not only for consumers but also for themselves.

It's Relatively Easier

Using digital wallets is relatively easy, with a report published by global data and business intelligence platform Statista revealing that, in 2022, they were used in approximately half of all global e-commerce transactions. Their versatility makes them conveniently employable in various situations, such as: 
●    Food delivery
●    Transportation
●    Online shopping
●    Paying bills and loans

This simplicity undoubtedly contributes to their global rise in popularity.

With the advantages of e-wallets, various e-wallet providers such as Alipay, WeChat Pay, and Octopus have become popular choices for people in Hong Kong. These digital wallets offer a range of features, including the ability to link to a bank account, pay for goods and services, and even send money to other users. As the world moves towards digitalisation, it is likely that more and more people in Hong Kong will continue to adopt digital wallets and other forms of mobile payment.

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How Digital Wallets Can Drive More Sales for Retailers in Hong Kong

This is where things get promising for retailers. Digital wallets can transform the shopping experience in a way that makes consumers more likely to finalise their purchases and, potentially, spend more. Let's delve into how this digital innovation has become a sales driver in Hong Kong retail industry.

1. Battling Low Authorisation Rates

These rates signify the percentage of approved transactions and payments, and they have a significant impact on a retailer's revenue. Each transaction must go through a green light process from the customer's bank or card network. Lower authorisation rates indicate higher declines, resulting in potential lost sales. 

In Hong Kong, low authorization rates have been a challenge for retailers. Digital wallet services like AliPay and WeChat Pay have gained popularity in the region as they offer a secure and efficient payment option, leading to higher authorization rates and increased sales for businesses.

2. Catering to User Preferences

As the global population exceeds 8 billion, it is no surprise that consumer payment preferences are as diverse as the people themselves. Online shopping in Hong Kong is predicted to continue to surge in popularity in the coming years. According to a report by Statista, the number of online shoppers in Hong Kong is expected to grow by 2.8% annually, reaching 7.5 million by 2025. It has become crucial for retailers to ensure that all types of payment options are available to effectively cater to a broader spectrum of customer preferences. Adding digital wallets to their range of payment methods can further fuel the convenience, enhance the shopping experience, and potentially drive more sales.

3. Better Mobile Conversion Rates

As mobile e-commerce continues to grow, with 34% of global purchases being made through mobile devices in the first quarter of 2015, businesses must ensure that they optimize their mobile conversion rates to capitalize on this trend. E-wallets are now providing retailers with a way to benefit from higher mobile conversion rates while also driving customer loyalty. Hong Kong, in particular, has one of the highest mobile conversion rates globally, making it a prime market for businesses seeking to tap into the expanding world of mobile commerce. Additionally, everything is conveniently kept in one place, the customer's personal mobile device, making it even more accessible.

4. Less Cart Abandonment

One of the major concerns for online retailers is cart abandonment, which can be caused by several factors such as lack of trust in credit card transactions, complex payment and checkout processes, hidden costs, and lack of preferred payment options. However, the adoption of digital wallets has been on the rise in Hong Kong, and online retailers are now integrating them into their payment options to tackle the issue of cart abandonment. By using digital wallets, customers can enjoy a seamless and transparent payment experience, while retailers can reduce transaction friction. This move helps to build trust in credit card transactions online, simplifies the payment and checkout process, eliminates hidden costs, and provides customers with preferred payment options. Integrating digital wallets into payment options has proven to be an effective solution for reducing cart abandonment rates in Hong Kong.

5. The Demand for Increased Security

With the rise of technology, digital wallets have become increasingly popular due to the added layer of security they provide for both customers and retailers. Customers in Hong Kong can benefit from the security measures such as OTPs and multi-factor authentication, while retailers can ensure customer authentication and upfront payment for orders. This not only reduces the risk of fraudulent activity but also safeguards retailers against fraud returns, damage claims, and cancellations. It's no wonder why digital wallets have become the go-to payment method in Hong Kong.

6. Creating an Atmosphere of Inclusiveness

By enabling users to make payments with just a few taps on their smartphones, digital wallets have transformed the way people in Hong Kong pay for goods and services. The accessibility features of digital wallets additionally make them an ideal payment solution for the physically impaired in Hong Kong as well. With technologies like QR code scanning and NFC, digital wallets in Hong Kong are creating an inclusive payment ecosystem that benefits everyone.

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Digital Wallet Trends in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has seen a significant increase in the adoption of digital wallets in recent years. Among the most popular e-wallets in Hong Kong are PayMe, Octopus, Alipay, WeChat Pay, and Tap & Go.

PayMe, launched by HSBC in 2017, enables users to transfer money instantly to other PayMe users, regardless of the bank they use. Octopus, a contactless payment system, is widely used for public transport and retail transactions. It also offers Octopus O! ePay, a digital wallet that enables users to make online payments.

Alipay and WeChat Pay, both from mainland China, are also popular in Hong Kong. Alipay allows users to make mobile payments, transfer money, and pay bills. WeChat Pay, integrated with the popular social media app WeChat, offers similar services and is widely accepted at retail outlets in Hong Kong.

Tap & Go, a digital wallet launched by HKT Payment Limited in 2016, enables users to make contactless payments with their smartphones at physical stores and online merchants.

These new developments in system and mobile technology have elevated digital wallets to become the new norm of payment in Hong Kong.

The Rise of Digital Currencies

Digital currencies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, are gaining momentum as innovative payment solutions through digital wallet apps for mobile devices. With over 11,000 cryptocurrencies in the market, backed by blockchain technology, fintech has disrupted the sector with faster and more cost-efficient cross-border transactions. Blockchain has not only proven to have diverse use-cases in financial sectors but also in non-financial areas like supply chain management and cloud storage. The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is said to be one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for digital wallets, with Hong Kong being a key player. Digital wallet providers in Hong Kong are racing against time and competition to create new innovations and shape future trends to transform customer engagement. The industry may still be clouded with uncertainty, but it is expected to continue evolving with the rise of digital currencies.

QR Code Payments

QR code payments have gained popularity in many Asian countries, including China and Hong Kong, due to their speed and efficiency. They are a preferred method of payment for many people in the region, as they provide a secure and contactless way to pay. All it takes is a quick tap and scan, and the transaction is complete. 

In fact, the use of QR codes for payments has been so successful in Asia that it has become a staple in the region. And it's not just limited to Asia; in the U.S., Venmo also uses QR codes as a payment tender. The system has become popular because it offers an alternative to traditional payment schemes such as debit or credit card. It is now used in over 8,000 retail stores across the country and is a preferred method of payment for millennial users because of its ease of use.

QR code payments are considered to be a secure way to pay. Payment details are tokenised and encrypted, and personal information is kept out of sight. This makes it a safer and more convenient method of payment for consumers across the world.

E-commerce payments

E-commerce has surged in the last two years due to people turning to online shopping to avoid close contact. This has led to a significant increase in mobile payments, with digital wallets becoming popular worldwide. The Asia Pacific region is leading the way in digital wallet adoption, with countries like China, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and even Hong Kong setting a benchmark. Digital wallets account for 58% of regional e-commerce payments in the Asia Pacific, surpassing cash payments at the point-of-sale. In China, it accounts for 48% of payment volume and 71% of e-commerce spend. In Southeast Asia, there are expected to be more than 439.7 million wallets in use by 2025. This trend is likely to continue as digital wallets become more accessible and user-friendly.


Final Thoughts

The popularity of digital wallets is undeniable. They are a modern solution for consumers and a boon to retailers who are looking to drive sales. Through their enhanced security, ease of use, numerous payment options, and inclusivity, digital wallets are revolutionising retail sales industry-wide. 

As we move further into the ever-advancing digital age, their role in shaping retailer success will likely become more pronounced.


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