Mercator Blog

Smartwatches Are Becoming a Global Phenomenon, but for Payments, Too?
Date: October 21, 2014
Research Team
In Mercator Advisory Group’s CustomerMonitor Survey Series latest Insight Report, Mobile Payments: Only If Relevant and Useful, I was surprised to see such significant interest in and use of wearable technology, especially for payments. According to our June 2014 payments survey of 3,000 U.S. adults, 38% of all respondents and 51% of smartphone owners are interested in using smartwatches. Of these, 50% are interested in using smartphones for making payments, 62% for fitness and health monitoring, 49% for scannable ticketing, and 44% for transferring funds to another person.

Apparently, half of consumers around the world are also interested in using smartwatches for some type of functionality, primarily for health and fitness, according to a recent GfK survey of 5,000 smartphone owners in China, Germany, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States conducted in August 2014 and released in October. Early smartwatch implementations such as Galaxy Gear, FitBit Force, and others focused on health and fitness functions, although many other functions can be facilitated through smartwatches. GfK’s survey addressed five use categories: store and share health information with doctors and hospitals; replace transportation tickets; secure identification to log into computer or access online accounts; use as an identification card to replace a passport; and make mobile payments. In this study, consumers in China outpaced only U.S. consumers in their interest in four of the five categories (except public transportation, which may be used more frequently in countries other than the U.S.). Among smartphone owners, 54% in China are interested in using smartphones for payments compared to 41% in the U.S., with South Korea (28%), U.K. (27%), and Germany (20%) lagging behind.

The GfK international study showed less interest in using smartwatches for payments than for sharing sensitive health information to doctors and hospitals and for security log-ins and passports as identification measures. This finding that suggests that since consumers are willing to use smartphones/smartwatches for sensitive information that they don’t want to have widely shared, eventually they may want to use the devices for mobile payments too.

For more information on use and interest in wearable technology for payments and other types of functionality, please refer to Mercator Advisory Group’s CMSS Insight Report cited above, Mobile Payments: Only If Relevant and Useful, which is based on an online survey of 3,000 U.S. adults conducted in June 2014 to be reflective of the U.S. Bureau of the Census demographic profile accessible by CustomerMonitor Survey Series members.