[Dave Birch] Who can’t help be fascinated by Japan. DoCoMo started bringing mobile and contactless together sometime ago — they’ve sold 30 million or so phones with Sony’s Felica chip in them — and use them to provide a mobile purse (EDY). Then they wanted to offer a credit product, but you have to be a bank to offer credit. So they bought a bank and began offering the DCMX credit “card” alongside the purse. Now they apparently want to accelerate retail acceptance of mobile payments, so they’re buying into a retail chain, FamilyMart. Currently, only 140 out of their 7,000 stores accept mobile payments. But from July 10, FamilyMart convenience stores nationwide will begin accepting mobile credit via DoCoMo’s iD™ platform, thereby enabling users to make payments simply by waving their phones over a reader/writer. So instead of whining about retailers, arguing about fees or trying advertising or whatever, DoCoMo have decided to spend their money in a more effective way to get all 7,000 on board: invest in the retailer.

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This is not the only retail e-money fun in Japan right now. A few days ago, Seven-Eleven there launched their nanaco e-money service. It started rather well: an estimated 100,000 applications were filed on the first day for nanaco cards. The service is currently available at about 1,500 Seven-Eleven convenience stores in Tokyo, with plans to expand to 11,700 stores around the country in May and 1,800 Ito-Yokado supermarkets and 586 Denny’s restaurants starting in autumn. It is available in two form factors, a smart card and a mobile phone. They’re hoping to do a deal with JCB to introduce e-money payment with nanaco cards by the spring of 2009, expecting that more than 60,000 stores will accept the card. I’m sure they’ll make it. In Japan, e-money is not in the least futuristic. Look at some of the results from this April 2007 survey in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures…

Q2: Which of the following electronic cash services do you know about? (Sample size=1,030, multiple answer)

  • Suica, Mobile Suica 92.9%
  • Edy 85.8%
  • PASMO 84.8%
  • iD/DCMX 31.1%
  • QUICKPay 21.4%
  • Smartplus 7.7%
  • VISA TOUCH 7.5%
  • Other 0.4%
  • Don’t know any electronic money services 3.3%

Less than 1 in 30 people don’t know about e-money. Now look at this chart…

Often-Use-E-Money

Only 8% of people surveyed use e-money less than once a month. Check it out on What Japan Thinks for more details.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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