SHANGHAI: Taps and swipes are replacing coins and notes at an accelerating pace in Asia-Pacific markets, nowhere more so than in China where purchase behaviour is changing quickly as consumers adapt to the latest technology.

An ecommerce white paper from MasterCard, the payments business, highlights some of the challenges facing merchants across Asia Pacific in such a fast-moving environment, including the need to embrace digital payment options that offer consumers a seamless check-out experience.

"With digital payments being progressively integrated on mobile phones, there will be less need to subscribe to a range of digital wallets," it said, pointing out that there are more than 20 in India alone.

At the same time, it noted that major digital players like Apple, Samsung and Android are using existing payment networks, integrated into their card-on-file systems while a new payment technology like MasterPass is enabling all parties – consumers, issuers and merchants – to leapfrog to a secure digital payment network.

And in China messaging apps are leading the charge. More than 100m consumers – one in every five users – uses WeChat's in-app payment system, which allows users to a link their credit card to pay for a variety of services.

According to a new World Federation of Advertisers study, 85% of marketers in China are now using mobile messaging platforms such as WeChat as their central marketing channel, up from just 21% a year ago. The same study reported an exponential 305% growth in brand uptake of these apps, reflecting their status among Chinese consumers.

WeChat, for example, offers extended functionality – via apps within the app – which makes it central to the everyday lives of users. They can order taxis or food, translate street signs, check in for flights, book appointments, pay bills and enjoy multimedia content without leaving WeChat.

For brands, the uptake of WeChat as a key outreach tool is also providing an opportunity to access and track valuable consumer data about spending habits.

A recent ESOMAR paper noted that all messaging platforms have large communities which can potentially be tapped into by research providers for market research interactions. But, it added, WeChat "is ideally suited in how it is structured so that brands and service providers can use WeChat as a channel to offer communications and services to its subscribers".

Data sourced from MasterCard, World Federation of Advertisers, ESOMAR; additional content by Warc staff