Every transaction via a third-party payment platform inevitably involves two kinds of users: cardholders and merchants. Only in the case that a third-party payment platform has been widely accepted by merchants, can the cardholders of this third-party payment platform benefit from holding the card. Only when the number of consumers using a certain platform or software (e.g. Alipay used in China and Paypal used in foreign countries) is enough, can merchants benefit from the card issued by this platform or software. Therefore, third-party payment networks offer different prices to cardholders and merchants in order to reach an effective balance between the needs of the two sides. In balancing both, the third-party payment platform developers have to be aware of such characteristics of the platforms that attract customers (Ambrus & Argenziano, 2009).
Meanwhile, another important issue is whether the interchange fee or card fee can be set at a “wrong level” meaning, whether the needs of end clients and the third party-service providers are aligned. These theories suggest that although socially optimal and individually ideal card fee levels are determined by the same factors such as issuance cost, acquisition cost, and elasticity of cardholders’ and merchants’ demands, market structure and both parties’ bargaining power. They have to be balanced for both parties to profit from the transaction (Hagiu, 2006; Rochet & Tirole, 2003). However, given all kinds of complexities of these models (including incomplete competition among merchants), it’s impossible to point out that the card fee is too high or too low compared to the socially optimal level. Therefore, in the pricing process of the two-sided market, it is necessary to take into consideration many factors. The research significance of platform characteristics and their influence on customer choice of payment hence becomes significant at this point.
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