Asia Pacific consumers seek stability while shift to digital continues

Consumers in Asia Pacific continue to embrace the shift from cash to mobile and digital payments as they look for better financial stability in a volatile economic environment that has led to rising prices and a mixed jobs outlook, according to Visa’s latest Green Shoots Radar report.

The latest edition of the Green Shoots Radar report, which keeps a finger on the pulse of the latest consumer sentiments, surveyed 17 markets across Asia Pacific. Over three-quarters (77%) of respondents in the region said they are facing cost-of-living pressures, up from 74% in a previous wave of the report.

Search for stability shaping new attitudes towards work and wallets

Consumers are choosing to spend, save, and invest differently, not only in response to current conditions, but also to hedge against an uncertain future. In particular, respondents surveyed were avoiding non-essential purchases, seeking discount offers, being more cautious with credit, and using their savings to meet expenses.

According to the survey, spending decisions are also being driven by job transitions with Gen Z respondents in Asia Pacific the least likely to stay in the same job and more likely to be searching for, or starting, a new role. This appears to be in line with a wider trend across the region: a PwC report in June 2023 showed that around 40% of employees in Asia Pacific are extremely or highly likely to request a salary increase or promotion, while almost one-third are likely to find a new job. The latter was nearly 10% higher than in 2022, indicating some openness to shaking up their professional lives despite the broader economic uncertainty.

Meanwhile, changes to personal and family life are influencing decisions surrounding financial management and the use of financial services. Visa’s survey showed that 43% of Asia Pacific respondents faced significant life events in the past three months and 28% experienced professional changes, and these events have influenced consumers’ uptake of financial products and services like cards, loans, and investments.

This highlights the importance of ensuring that products and services are designed in such a way that they remain relevant and useful to consumers at different stages of their life.

Card is still king — but so is integrating with mobile payments

Alongside the more deliberate selection of financial products, cards continue to lead in payment usage in Asia Pacific, marked by increased consumer expectations of mobile integration. In fact, more than one in three (36%) Asia Pacific respondents in the survey applied for a card in the six months prior to the survey. The convenience of instant card integration with mobile wallets was the top reason for new card applications, with 43% saying that they applied for a new card because it can be linked to mobile wallet apps like Apple Pay or used with banking apps, our survey found.

A GSMA report in 2022 projected that smartphone adoption in Asia Pacific is set to rise from 73% in 2021 to 83% by 2025. This will further drive mobile wallet usage and transform how people pay for their purchases, which is why Visa is deepening our partnerships with mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay across the region to ease integration and allow cardholders to easily load Visa cards onto various apps.

Consumers in our survey also identified security features as another main reason influencing their decision to apply for a card. Visa’s partnership with Apple Pay, for instance, allows the use of security features such as Face ID, Touch ID, device passcodes, or transaction-specific one-time passwords (OTP) to authenticate consumer purchases, adding a layer of security and assurance to contactless payments. With Apple Pay, users can easily access Visa’s security and authentication features when paying with their Visa cards through the wallet.

The mobile wallet revolution is likely to usher in new use case opportunities with cards playing an integral part. By 2026, consumers in Asia Pacific are forecast to overtake those in the Middle East and Africa, Europe, and North America in their use of mobile wallets for in-person transactions.

As consumers continue their search for stability amidst volatility and uncertainty in the short term, the increasing preference for card and digital payments is also set to play a growing role in shaping spending habits and the region’s payment landscape.

Contact Visa to access the full Green Shoots Radar report and unlock the complete picture on consumer insights in Asia Pacific.