In the spirit of a rising tide lifting all boats, we hope Apple figures out ways to add value to the mobile commerce ecosystem, not just be another isolated technology with limited value to merchants and consumers. Because Apple has work to do.
Apple needs to take cues from the retailers so key to their success: integrated loyalty and seamless ordering.
Apple's mobile payments initiative has still not taken off. 2015 was supposed to be the year of Apple Pay. Not. Then the transition to EMV was going to help Apple Pay. Still not. This is not to pick on Apple Pay, because they have still seen much more adoption than the other wallets and “Fill-In-The-Blank Pay” that have launched since them.
And to be fair, Apple has gotten many things right. The sign up process is easy, unlike other wallets that require multiple steps for authentication including social security numbers. Launching Apple Pay when near a terminal is pure awesomeness and should be the model in other payment scenarios moving forward. Apple Pay also makes payments more secure (though they could do a better job telling that story).
Since Apple Pay is the best of breed out there let’s talk about what they did not get right -- the total consumer experience. Yes, there has always been the chicken or egg problem with NFC and, yes, there are still a relatively limited number of NFC enabled terminals in the market. The onus is on Apple, though, to give merchants a compelling reason to join the Apple Pay ecosystem and customers a reason to use it.
According to research from ACI Worldwide, the top 3 features retailers want to see in a mobile wallet are security, integrated loyalty, and seamless mobile ordering.
Where does Apple Pay stand in regard to these features? Security: check. Apple Pay is a much more secure way to pay; between Touch ID and tokenization it is about the safest way to pay out there. Loyalty: not great. Integrating legacy loyalty platforms into Apple Pay is far from seamless and the customer experience is no better than the status quo. Walgreen’s was the first retailer to integrate its loyalty program with Apple Pay, but it still requires two separate taps to complete the transaction. Not exactly user friendly. Finally, mobile ordering: it will become more prevalent due to the success of ordering apps such as Starbucks, Taco Bell, and Dunkin’ Donuts but it does not seem to be something Apple is actively pushing.
That all said, merchant adoption and even consumer adoption are not necessarily the biggest concern with Apple Pay right now. The bigger concern coming out of a recent First Annapolis survey is that the percentage of adopters stating they regularly use Apple Pay is decreasing. Clearly Apple Pay is not presenting an overwhelmingly great value proposition to customers if their usage decreases over time. No big mystery here: even Apple cannot get around the fact that in order for mobile wallets to be successful they have to be magnitudes easier / better than status quo. It has been well documented that NFC payment as a standalone service is at best a slightly more convenient way to pay.
Consequently, Apple Pay is facing the traditional knock on NFC – it is not deeply integrated with merchants. Merchants get no data, there is no turnkey loyalty or offers solution, and brand engagement is virtually non-existent. If consumers cannot seamlessly get loyalty points and offers through a mobile wallet they likely will not adopt in great numbers. Starbucks Mobile and Dunkin Donuts Mobile show that offers + loyalty + easy payment and/or ordering = mass consumer adoption.
Jon Squire is CEO of Cardfree.