Consumers in Thailand have rushed to embrace digital payments since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with the country’s central bank reporting that transaction volumes on the PromptPay platform have increased fourfold since 2019.[i]
PromptPay was introduced in December 2016 by payments firm VocaLink, subsequently acquired by Mastercard in 2017 as the financial services giant sought to diversify its business beyond card-based payments. PromptPay allows Thai people, businesses and the government to send and receive money in real-time using a mobile phone number, email address or corporate or citizen ID. The Bank of Thailand estimated over 55m registered PromptPay users in the country as of September 2020, most of which fall in the younger 21-37 year age category. Statista calculates that annual transaction volumes on the platform more than doubled to 5.3bn between 2019 and 2020 to be worth around 20.8tn baht (US$630bn).
PromptPay is now looking to expand its customer base, transaction volume, and value further by moving into mobile payments for digital goods and services. The company partnered with payments platform provider Rapyd earlier this year. This partnership would enable users to pay for premium digital content in Google Play, including music, games and video streaming subscriptions and downloads (read more detail in one of my recent blogs – Mobile payment options continue to expand in Southeast Asia).
Thailand embracing mobile banking and payments
Banking and financial services apps are popular in Thailand, being used at least once a month by 68% of Internet users aged 16 to 64, according to GWI. Almost half (45%) use OEM mobile payment services from smartphone manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung. A significant number (8.3%) also use a mobile money account that stores funds in an electronic wallet linked directly to a phone number.
As well as global services like Google Pay, PayPal and Samsung Pay and PayPal, other digital or electronic wallets (eWallets) available in the country include TrueMoney, K Plus, Rabbit Line Pay and AIS Global Pay.
Thailand saw the value of its consumer goods eCommerce market expand by almost 43% year on year to US$7.3bn during 2020, according to Statista Market Outlook for eCommerce figures. Smartphone transactions are likely to have accounted for a large proportion of that activity. GWI found that 83% of Thai Internet users aged between 16 and 64 used a shopping app on a mobile phone or tablet in the third quarter of 2020, while 74% purchased a product online using their mobile phone. Popular mobile shopping apps include those from Alibaba Group (Lazada) and SEA (Shopee).
Fast mobile telecoms infrastructure plays its part
High smartphone penetration and rapidly increasing mobile bandwidth have undoubtedly played their role in boosting Thailand’s mobile payment boom. The country’s 70m citizens include around 48.6m Internet users and almost 91m mobile connections, according to statistics compiled by GSMA Intelligence. GlobalWebIndex (GWI) estimates that 99% of Internet users aged between 16 and 64 own a smartphone and spend an average of eight hours and 44 minutes using the Internet from one device or another. Smartphone Internet users represent almost 97% of total Internet users, calculates GWI. At the same time, Statcounter reports that mobile phones accounted for over 60% of web pages served to web browsers in January 2021, up 35% year on year and surpassing the volume of traffic attributed to laptop and desktop PCs (37%) for the first time.
That high level of engagement with the mobile Internet has also been boosted by average download speeds, which hit almost 52Mbit/s in December 2020 according to Ookla speed tests, double the average mobile bandwidth on offer in December of the previous year.
Those trends also suggest further growth in the number of Thai consumers paying for goods and services and funding money transfers using their smartphones over the next few years. J.P Morgan’s 2020 eCommerce Payments Trends Report estimates that digital wallets will expand to account for 23% of all payments in Thailand by 2023, for example, on a par with credit/debit cards (26%) and exceeding cash transactions (16%).
[i] Thai digital payments surge from pre-coronavirus level, Reuters, 11th October 2021