ShopKeep's most recent survey of its 20,000 merchant clients shows two mobile payment trends at odds with one another.

The big takeaway is the 10% month-over-month adoption rate for merchants accepting their first transactions through Apple Pay. About 26% of respondents had accepted an Apple Pay transaction by the end of September, compared to 2.5% in February. Nearly half of ShopKeep's clients have the technology necessary to accept Apple Pay at the point of sale.

But this is still a very small percentage of overall transactions, the company notes. Other studies have shown that consumers rarely use Apple Pay. For example, Pulse's annual Debit Issuer Study found that the average consumer who uses Apple Pay with a debit card made just one transaction every three month. A study by Phoenix Marketing suggests Apple Pay adoption has already leveled off.

Consumer use of Apple Pay is still very low, but at ShopKeep's merchants, the adoption numbers are rising at a fast enough rate to signal a shift in consumer preference, according to ShopKeep CEO Norm Merritt.

"Transactions running through Apple Pay are in a month over month growth rate of about 58%, and this is not just from a small base," Merritt said. "We have seen a really dramatic increase in the usage of Apple Pay."

ShopKeep worked with terminal manufacturer Ingenico in late 2014 to develop mobile point of sale hardware that would accept Near Field Communication transactions from Apple Pay as well as the EMV chip cards that the U.S. is in the process of adopting.

ShopKeep's tight alignment with Apple Pay has its roots in the vendor's desire to "future-proof our merchants with the current payment technology," Merritt said. Since becoming CEO of ShopKeep in 2015, Merritt has established the strategy of focusing on bringing modern and emerging technology to small businesses.

Consumer behavior for initiating payments is deeply ingrained, making it difficult for any specific alternative method to really take off quickly, said Richard Oglesby, senior analyst at Double Diamond Payments Research.

"People are still writing checks at the point of sale, so this is going to be a very slow, incremental growth over time [for Apple Pay]," Oglesby said.

Merchants will have to determine what the incentive is for them to promote Apple Pay at the point of sale because "you almost have to be jumping up and down at the POS to promote a system and change habit," Oglesby added.

"There is not much in it for merchants to promote Apple Pay now," Oglesby said. "If consumers want to use it, merchants are happy to accept it, but there is no reason for them to promote it."

Apple has recognized this shortcoming as well, most recently attaching Apple Pay to the Balance Rewards program at Walgreens benefit from the use of the merchant's loyalty services.

For ShopKeep merchants, mostly small businesses averaging about $400,000 in annual revenue, the most apparent incentive for promoting Apple Pay is speed, Merritt said.

"At merchant locations where lines are an issue, and not just quick-service restaurants, they don't want line rejection where people come up, see a line, and decide not to buy," Merritt said. "A quicker transaction is money found, so I think that is their economic incentive."

This will especially be true as merchants and consumers try to adapt to dipping EMV cards into a reader, a process that consumers perceive to take longer than just swiping cards, Merritt said.

Over time, merchants and consumers will also consider a system like Apple Pay a safer payment method, in large part because of Apple's prominent use of TouchID fingerprint authentication, Merritt added.

ShopKeep merchants will accept any other NFC mobile wallet as well, but Android Pay and Samsung Pay are still new, while Apple Pay has been in market for more than a year.

So far, ShopKeep merchants have expressed no interest in participating in the CurrentC mobile wallet from the Merchant Customer Exchange when the retailer-backed venture rolls out its system, Merritt added.

Still, there is no denying ShopKeep likes having the Apple name attached to its product.

As part of a recent partnership with MasterCard's Easy Savings program, ShopKeep provided an Apple Pay and EMV-compatible card reader to participating small businesses.

"The numbers in our report were a confirmation that Apple was great in its timing to catch the EMV wave, while adopting the network rails instead of trying to create something entirely new," Merritt said.

By playing its cards right, Apple Pay over time will be "by far the biggest success of any of the mobile wallets out there," Merritt added.

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