From Shanghai to São Paulo, Dhaka to Dar es Salaam, tarnished coins and crumpled banknotes are rapidly giving way to a frictionless vision of swipes, clicks, taps, and apps. A report released today finds the boom of mass consumption in major developing markets—and mobile internet access everywhere—fueling a surge in demand for new methods of cashless payment. This is transforming the industry as new competitors and business models rush in to meet the needs of every imaginable consumer cohort and use-case. Across the planet, traditional banks and credit-card networks are now competing directly with retailers, telecom providers, established tech giants, social-media upstarts, and scores of regional, often government-backed initiatives to handle the transactions of customers previously relegated to cash or barter.
The End of Cold, Hard Cash and the Global Shift toward Cashless Consumer Payments is the latest publication from The Demand Institute, a non-advocacy, non-profit think tank jointly operated by The Conference Board and Nielsen. The report reveals how the explosion in growth of internet access and global penetration of mobile devices is making the technology that enables digital storage and exchange of money a reality in long-underserved markets. Over the next five years, it projects 1.2 billion customers will gain access to the internet for the first time. Over the next decade, growth in access to cashless payments will contribute $10 trillion in additional consumer spending worldwide—including $170 billion in China alone.
"The spread of mobile devices and alternative payment networks will, most dramatically, give two billion 'unbanked' consumers their first means of participating in the modern, connected economy—including basic financial services," said Louise Keely, president of The Demand Institute. "But the proliferation of cashless payment services will benefit all consumers, in advanced as well as developing economies: It promises to enhance their experience of shopping across all channels, enable them to have products and services better suited to their preferences and needs, and help them manage their spending and borrowing more effectively. The question now is which model or combination of models will best deliver these benefits—a battle which is now playing out in wallets, phones, and minds of consumers worldwide."
Among the report's key findings: