Apple Pay gets a 'fast lane' at festivals

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In the evolution of mobile wallets, many companies have toyed with the idea that rewards would be a key driver for adoption. Others insist the improvements in speed and convenience are compelling enough on their own.

Apple has parlayed both concepts into its promotions since launching Apple Pay in 2014. It is doing so again at summer festivals, starting last week with the Firefly Festival in New York and continuing this week in encouraging concert-goers at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival to use the mobile wallet in clearly marked "fast lanes" for food and drink.

Apple Pay ranks highest among the mobile wallets in terms of name recognition, a fact that Apple may be trying to take advantage by applying the brand to a checkout line at crowded venues. The company also wants to continue momentum it has emphasized at industry presentations and during earnings calls when saying Apple partners have indicated that 90% of mobile contactless transactions are initiated through Apple Pay.

Some stands at the festival provide perks when customers make an Apple Pay purchase, one providing free water and another offering $2 off when purchasing three food items, according to the appleinsider site. Apple did not respond to an inquiry from PaymentsSource by deadline.

To avoid confusion, which can occur in many retail settings when consumers are first trying a mobile wallet, employees wearing Apple Pay T-shirts will be on site to help. Appleinsider indicated it was not clear whether these would be Apple staffers or concert employees.

"If these fast lanes promote Apple Pay with special offers and a genuinely faster service, then it can only be good news for anyone with the wallet and it should raise awareness and might entice new users to try it out," said Zil Bareisis, a London-based senior analyst for research firm Celent.

Apple's testing of fast lanes would not be the same as the order-ahead lanes it continues to develop, Bareisis said.

Because the order-ahead lanes cut down on waiting time for food or drink in any venue, it does raise a few questions about the fast lanes at the summer concerts, Bareisis added.

"So, does the promise of 'fast' have to rely purely on the speed of contactless versus other types of transactions?" he asked. "Or is it the fact that it’s fewer people that are willing to transact that way?"

If the fast lanes at concerts or festivals resulted in more mobile wallet usage, the next phase might be seeing the same concept in large retail settings, or even grocery stores. But that's not a sure thing.

"I don’t see special lanes for contactless or mobile wallet transactions coming in any time soon," Baresis said. "Contactless is already huge in the U.K., albeit mostly cards, and the only different tills we have are based on the number of items in the basket or self-checkout, not how the user intends to pay."

Also, as it stands now in retail payments technology advancements, far more innovation is going to be driven by cashierless checkout through the likes of Amazon Go and others, Bareisis said.

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