In 'year of Apple Pay', top retailers remain skeptical

Merchants evince mixed feelings to the new tool

In 'year of Apple Pay', top retailers remain skeptical

 In a January earnings call with investors, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook made a confident prediction: “2015 will be the year of Apple Pay,” he said.

Since then, the company has aggressively courted retailers accept Apple Pay this year, with many more the following year,” a company spokesperson recently told Reuters.

But interviews with analysts, merchants and others suggest that Apple’s forecast may be too optimistic and that many retailers remain skeptical about the payment system.

The service is one of Apple’s biggest bets, a chance to tie customers tightly to its phones and its new smart watch, as well as to take a tiny bite from every retail transaction.

To assess Apple’s progress, Reuters worked from the National Retail Federation’s list of the top 100 US retailers, surveying the 98 that had brick-and-mortar outlets (two of the top 100 sell only online). Around 85 supplied detailed responses, and 11 others supplied information only about whether or not they accept Apple Pay. Two did not respond.

While some of the country’s top merchants said they use and like the mobile payment system, fewer than a quarter of the retailers said they currently accept Apple Pay, and nearly two-thirds of the chains said categorically they would not be accepting it this year. Only four companies said they have plans to join the programme in the next year.

The top reasons retailers cited for not accepting Apple Pay were insufficient customer demand, a lack of access to data generated in Apple Pay transactions and the cost of technology to facilitate the payments. Some merchants said they were holding out because they plan to participate in a new mobile payment system to be launched by a coalition of retailers later this year.

A small, growing market

Reliable statistics on mobile wallet payments are difficult to obtain. Neither the companies offering payment systems nor credit card issuers will disclose detailed data about usage. But analysts agree that they are used for only a tiny percentage of US retail transactions.
An online survey conducted by Verifone and Wakefield Research released in January 2015 found that mobile wallets accounted for about 4 per cent of the overall payments market for in-store retail transactions in the US.

How that market is divided up among the major players is not entirely clear. An ITG Investment Research study conducted in November, soon after Apple Pay was launched, found that the service accounted for 1 per cent of digital payment dollars, while Google Wallet accounted for 4 per cent.

In January, Apple’s Cook, citing internal data, said Apple Pay accounted for two out of three dollars spent in “contactless payments”, but the company did not provide data to back up those numbers.

Still, it is clear Apple Pay has made considerable progress in signing up vendors, with more than 700,000 sites as of March 9, the last time Apple updated its numbers, including self-service terminals such as vending machines, laundromats and parking meters.

Interviews with retailers suggest that the company has relied on aggressive marketing to recruit participants. “They have been pushing hard and it’s been that way for months,” said the representative of one large retailer that has no plans to accept Apple Pay.

Speed and convenience

Many companies that accept Apple Pay report that they and their customers are happy with it. Whole Foods spokesman Michael Silverman said that Apple Pay transactions accounted for 2 per cent of its sales dollars as of March and that it expects use to rise. “Our shoppers are really enjoying the speed, convenience and security of Apple Pay,” he said.

But for other retailers and consumers, Apple has yet to answer the question “what is in it for us if we use Apple Pay?” said Alberto Jimenez, programme director for mobile payments at IBM, which provides technology to mobile wallet makers and retailers. Jimenez would not say whether Apple is among their customers. The programme does not offer loyalty rewards to customers, as companies such as Starbucks do with their mobile applications, nor does it provide customer information to retailers about Apple Pay users.

For 28 of the retailers surveyed, lack of access to data about customers and their buying habits is a key reason they do not accept Apple Pay. “One of the biggest concerns is data control,” said Mario De Armas, senior director, international payments at Wal-Mart Stores.

Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi? Who will win the battle royale of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019


Get real-time news updates, views and analysis on Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on Deccanherald.com/news/lok-sabha-elections-2019 


Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram with #DHPoliticalTheatre for live updates on the Indian general elections 2019.

Comments (+)