Because of the conflicting messages from providers of mobile payments, consumers are not yet sold on the possibility that they can use apps to replace their plastic cards.
"Shoppers are not convinced of the need or benefit of mobile; there's still some reluctance there," said Tom Neri, executive vice president of financial services at GfK, a market and consumer information provider. "It does seem that the industry getting on board and unifying and communicating consistently about the benefits is going to be required."
One of the reasons U.S. consumers are still hesitant to adopt mobile payments is because of the oversaturation of companies in the space all touting different benefits.
For example, said Neri, CVS and Rite Aid recently came out stating they wouldn't take Apple Pay, the newest NFC-based mobile payment system exclusively for iPhone users. In the process they shut off other NFC wallets, but they remain committed to the Merchant Customer Exchange's CurrentC wallet, which is still in testing. Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX, is a retailer-backed group developing a QR code-based mobile wallet called CurrentC.
"Because of competition and protecting their own turf retailers want control of their customers that could be detrimental to the rolling out of mobile payments in a more substantial way," Neri said.
According to new research from GfK, U.S. consumers still lag far behind citizens of other countries in their use of mobile payments. In the past six months, 33% of U.S. shoppers reported making a mobile payment, both online and in-store. Of those surveyed, 76% said their last mobile payment was made online and 24% said their last was made in-store.
While the U.S. is catching up to the global average of 25% in-store mobile payments, the country lags behind many others, including Poland at 40% and Australia and Japan at 41%, according to the research.
Thirty-three percent of shoppers agree that paying with a mobile device is faster and 29% agree that having all their payment methods in one place on the mobile device is a major convenience. While these benefits have been talked about extensively, many industry experts are trying to shift the focus to mobile's enhanced security.
Apple pushed the security conversation forward with its launch of Apple Pay, which not only uses Touch ID fingerprint biometrics for authentication but also uses tokenization on the back end, replicating consumer card credentials and assigning each account a randomly generated number in the cloud.
But not everyone is convinced of Apple Pay's benefits. Banks and merchants have been discussing how the Apple brand might distract consumers from their own brands, while Apple takes a piece of banks' interchange revenue.
Consumers' fears about mobile payment security have also been a roadblock for adoption, with 57% of shoppers surveyed by GfK saying they were worried about the safety of their personal information.
Millennials will be the main driven of mobile payment adoption, Neri said, and within the younger demographics, this worry is subsiding. Within Gen Z (under 18), 38% and within Gen Y (ages 18-34), 34% think mobile payments are more secure than other payments methods. Forty-eight percent of Gen Z and 33% of Gen Y think their mobile payments are 100% secure.
But Gen Yers, 67% are concerned about their personal information when making a mobile payment.
And the older millennial generation, Gen X, encompassing consumers aged 35-55, seem to care more about security and in turn are more hesitant to use a mobile device to pay. "There's still a lot of spend to capture within Gen X," Neri said.
Most consumers are using their mobile devices to pay only once a month or less, even in countries where mobile payments are much more ubiquitous. In North America, 57% of shoppers said they use their mobile device once a month or less. In Western Europe that number was 58% and in Asia Pacific and Asia Central, 43% of shoppers use their mobile device once a month or less for payment.