Apple Pay: A few surprises - or are they really surprises?

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22 January 2015
Zilvinas Bareisis
Apple Pay continues to provide excitement to many in the industry who are looking for signals indicating that Apple Pay is either doomed or is becoming a mass-scale success. In reality, it's neither at the moment - it's still early days. A few recent stories also caught my eye. At first glance, they seemed a little surprising, although I don't think they should be. The first was the InfoScout blog discussing their research that 90.9% of iPhone 6/ 6+ users have never tried Apple Pay, and only 4.6% of those who could use Apple Pay during Black Friday, actually did, which has prompted some commentators to announce the death of Apple Pay. Considering that smooth consumer payment experience is one of the major Apple Pay's attractions, low usage might appear a little surprising. However, if you think about the shortage of merchant locations, lack of awareness which merchants would accept the transactions, general stress of shopping on Black Friday and the fact that we are talking here about "normal" consumers (albeit early iPhone 6 adopters), not payment geeks, it starts to make more sense. Various other surveys found that consumers who have used Apple Pay, compared it highly favourably to using a traditional plastic card. And according to the same InfoScout blog, of those who have not used Apple Pay, 31% said they didn’t know if the store accepted it and 25% said they simply forgot – factors that will fall away over time with more training, communication and experience. Bank of America recently said that 800,000 of its customers have signed up with a total of 1.1 million accounts. The second was a recent story in Digital Transactions that there are now 54 banks and credit unions supporting Apple Pay. Only 54? Didn't the announcement from Apple in October state that it signed up another 500 FIs in addition to its launch partners? Well, there is clearly a difference between signing the paper and actually supporting customers and their cards from technical and operational perspective. Still, it is encouraging to see that the number of institutions continues to grow and includes issuers across the spectrum, from the largest banks to small(-ish) credit unions. My final surprise was data from research that ACI Worldwide conducted at a recent National Retail Federation (NRF) show. ACI surveyed 200 participants, 85% of whom were based in the US and over half represented merchants. 47% of respondents expected that Apple Pay would “win the mobile wallet war” with Google and PayPal being other main contenders; only 6% opted for MCX. In our last year's report assessing Apple Pay's prospects, we predicted that the US merchants would be the most likely major barrier for Apple Pay's success. However, if merchants start to believe in Apple Pay, they might start switching on the contactless capability on the new terminals they are installing as part of EMV migration. And if that happens, then mobile payments might arrive sooner than even the most optimistic of us expected.

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