Mobile payments have made headlines for months, as Google Wallet, Apple Pay and big retailers’ own CurrentC duke it out for market dominance. Mobile payments are top of mind for retailers trying to determine the next big thing for consumers. The potential to offer shoppers a path to purchase with less friction is enticing, but retailers may be getting ahead of themselves.
A December 2014 study by Wakefield Research for Verifone found that half of US internet users were unfamiliar with mobile payment technologies, whether near field communication or mobile wallets.
US internet users who are clued into mobile payments—including those who currently use smartphone wallet apps or plan to use them—use Google Wallet most of all (47%), Thomson Reuters found in a November 2014 study. Three in 10 of those respondents used Apple Pay, and 14% were keen on Softcard.
Customers already using mobile wallets love them. Their only gripe is that not all stores are equipped with the right technology to accept mobile payments. Verifone and Wakefield found that 53% of respondents felt it was important for more stores to install devices that enabled consumers to pay with their smartphones. Younger shoppers, especially, hoped that retailers would be more receptive to mobile pay options; 64% of respondents below the age of 40 felt retailers should install more devices to allow these kinds of payments.
Mobile wallets were especially popular for smaller-ticket purchases. In fact, 84% of consumers surveyed said that they would be open to using their smartphones to pay for small and medium purchases like a latte at Starbucks or a new set of sheets. It’ll take a little more time for consumers to feel comfortable purchasing larger-ticket items—for example, a luxury good or furniture—with a smartphone. One thing at a time.
For now, awareness of mobile payments is growing, however slowly. August 2014 polling by Lightspeed Research for Accenture found that 42% of US internet users had made a mobile payment in-store—whether daily, weekly, monthly or even less frequently—in 2014, compared with just 17% of those surveyed in 2012.
That said, mobile payments have yet to reach a critical mass among consumers. In Verifone and Wakefield’s respondent pool, credit and debit cards remained the primary methods of payment among 63%. But eMarketer projects that more than one-quarter of US smartphone users will be mobile payment users by the end of 2018, so there’s hope yet.