PARIS–As contactless payment catches on in certain pockets of Europe, key facts are emerging about what slows and accelerates adoption of the payment method, according to Mark Austin, head of contactless at Visa Europe.

Eliminating obstacles to contactless-payment adoption among merchants and consumers is crucial at this stage of the platform’s development because it is laying the foundation for widespread mobile payments, Austin told attendees at a session here Dec. 8 at Cartes & IDentification conference and exhibition.

“Because mobile payment is the great vision for the future, we need to build the (contactless) infrastructure it sits on ... as a credible technology,” Austin said.

Contactless payment in Europe so far is densest in the United Kingdom, where some 12 million contactless cards are in circulation and 80% of all contactless transactions in Europe occur, Austin said. In the past four months alone, thanks to broader distribution of contactless cards and publicity from contactless-enabled merchants, contactless-payment transaction volume in the UK has doubled, he said.

Turkey and Poland are second and third respectively in terms of contactless payment card issuance and use in Europe, while France and Italy are poised for significant growth within the next year, Austin said.

Recent consumer surveys Visa Europe conducted indicate that wherever consumers have the opportunity to use contactless payments, they prefer it to other electronic-payment methods, he said.

“Usage is dictated by the merchant footprint,” Austin said, contending that wherever merchants promote contactless payment consumers are quick to try it, and many of them prefer frequenting stores that accept contactless payment. Supermarkets are the most-desired location for contactless payment, according to Visa Europe’s research.

 But many consumers remain unaware of their contactless-payment options.

“We need to get better at promoting contactless payment,” Austin said. “Merchants need to make full use of decals” and other signage indicating a terminal is contactless-enabled, including the universal symbol of contactless, he added.

“Many people (surveyed) didn’t know what the symbol meant; they thought it indicated Wi-Fi or some other brand,” Austin said.

Large merchants’ acceptance of contactless payments is crucial to expand its use, according to Austin. “We need to help bridge the [information-technology] challenges” large merchants face in adding contactless acceptance,” he said, noting many merchants still have the perception that the testing and accreditation process for contactless payment is “complex and unclear,” which is not the case.

Consumers also have concerns about contactless-payment security, “which we need to tackle head on with education,” Austin said.

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