While the number of U.S. retailers who accept Apple Pay has grown seven-fold between the launch of the service and the end of last year, usage appears to be lagging behind that curve. A survey by Phoenix Marketing found that even in the cases of retailers with the highest levels of Apple Pay usage, only a minority of customers use the payment method there more than once a month.
The survey also noted that 47% of Apple Pay users had experienced a failed transaction at least once, and that a handful of states account for half of all payments made using the service.
As someone who lives in the UK, where contactless payment first launched in 2008, none of this surprises me – and I don’t think it’s anything for Apple to worry about …
As an early adopter of new technology, I was keen to take advantage of contactless payment, but I’ve experienced four barriers along the way, most of which are playing their part in Apple Pay usage rates today.
First, your bank needs to support the service. In the UK, Barclays was the first to offer a contactless card, but changing banks is a hassle, so I ended up waiting until 2012 for my own bank to provide them. Many Apple Pay users have likewise had to wait for their own bank to support the service.
Second, many retailers still don’t accept Apple Pay – and third, when they do, most have transaction limits. Both factors mean that we haven’t yet reached the point where we can simply leave our physical wallet at home and use our iPhone/Watch for all purchases. Until we reach that point, the habit of reaching for our wallet is going to play a significant role.
Finally, it isn’t always clear whether or not a retailer accepts contactless payment. While they should display the contactless symbol or Apple Pay logo at the payment terminal, not all do. Where we’re not sure, it’s less hassle to simply use another form of payment than it is to risk a failure or to ask an assistant who may or may not know.
That ‘handful of states’ is also no surprise: that too is similar in the UK. Today, there are few retailers in London – even corner shops – who don’t support contactless payment, but it’s still a different story in other parts of the country. Again, until we can be confident that most retailers support it, it’s easiest to use other payment methods.
The story here, I think, is that Apple Pay usage will mirror that of contactless cards: a relatively slow burn until we reach the tipping point where most retailers accept it. Once acceptance is near-universal, and retailers finally realize the strong security means they can lose the transaction limits, many of us are likely to use Apple Pay for almost every transaction.
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