eMarketer slashes 2013 U.S. mobile payments forecast in half

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American consumers will complete $1.04 billion in mobile-enabled payment transactions in 2013, almost doubling from $54 million a year ago, according to new data from eMarketer. The forecast is nevertheless far below the firm's previous 2013 U.S. mobile payment estimate of $2.12 billion.

According to eMarketer--which defines mobile payments as transactions for goods or services made by scanning, tapping, swiping or checking in with a mobile phone at the point of sale--the growth of the segment is driven by purchases of items like coffee via closed-loop payment systems (e.g., Starbucks), as well as an increase in bigger-ticket purchases made via smartphones. The firm projects U.S. consumers will complete $2.59 billion in m-payments in 2014, a total expected to increase to $9.69 billion the following year and surging to $58.42 billion in 2017.

"The significant jump in total and per-user spending over the forecast period will be driven by consumers adopting mobile payments for a wider array of products and services constituting an equally broad gamut of price points," eMarketer said. "eMarketer views this diversification as critical to driving habitual consumption, which is crucial for moving mobile payments into the mainstream."

eMarketer is nevertheless scaling back estimates published in Oct. 2012: At that time, the firm anticipated consumers would complete mobile transaction values would top $2 billion this year and eclipse the $20 billion milestone in 2015, but it now believes the latter will not occur until 2016, when transactions reach $26.45 billion. eMarketer chalks up the revised forecast to delays and adoption issues facing numerous mobile wallet initiatives alongside a congested landscape of competing technological standards, adding that low-value purchases will still represent the majority of transactions in 2013, also triggering a decline in growth rates.

"The failure of large-scale mobile payment schemes to take root in 2012 put many merchants and consumers in a 'wait-and-see' mode, resulting in lowered estimates," eMarketer said. "Consumers will also need to find the experience of using a mobile payment platform sufficiently convenient and valuable enough to encourage repeat use. Integration of proximity payments with other mobile commerce activities will contribute to increased consumer awareness and use, encouraging uptake, while concerns about security and smartphone battery life will gradually ebb as consumers grow more familiar with the different systems available. Absent these conditions, the market may not develop as predicted in the model."

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