Controversial

Apple Pay Adoption: Improving, But Still A Long Way To Go

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A little under four months ago, the payments ecosystem got something of a surprise when a first round of Apple Pay adoption numbers was released by InfoScout in collaboration with PYMNTS.com. A survey of about 400 possible Apple Pay users on Black Friday revealed that 95 percent of iPhone 6 and 6+ users who could have paid with Apple Pay on Black Friday didn’t. Perhaps more surprising, five weeks after launch, more than 90 percent of those who could have used Apple Pay hadn’t given it a try..

Four-and-a-half months have passed however. That has given Apple the chance to build, enhance and expand its payments ecosystem — signing on new banks, and forging merchant partnerships in its quest to broaden its appeal. Consumers have been inundated with Apple Pay promotions from their banks, and media coverage has been intense.

Yesterday, at Innovation Project 2015, powered by PYMNTS.com, attendees got a chance to see what kind of a difference six months makes – as InfoScout and PYMNTS.com released Apple Pay By The Numbers: Adoption And Behavior – the results of a paired-up effort to track who’s using Apple Pay, who’s not and why. The survey was based on more than 1,000 individuals who had iPhone6’s and therefore could have used Apple Pay.

So what were the big takeaways?

Both Trial And Adoption Have Gone Up – Just Not A Huge Amount

The March 2015 numbers showed improvement over the November 2014 in all categories – 6 percent use the service (up from 5 percent), 9 percent had tried it but weren’t using it (up from 4 percent) leaving 85 percent who had never tried it (as opposed to 91 percent).

In the almost six months since Apple Pay launched, users have certainly become more willing to try Apple Pay – that category nearly doubled since InfoScout first measured it in November. So why weren’t those users using it more often and converted from “triers” to “users?”

The main reason those who had tried Apple Pay in the past, but didn’t on some transactions where it was available, seems to be forgetfulness – almost a third (32 percent) said they just forgot it was an option.

“Muscle memory is a challenge,” InfoScout Co-Founder and CEO Jared Schrieber told an audience at Innovation Project yesterday. “If I’m Apple, I’m dead-focused on point of sale and making sure there is a trigger to make sure I pull out my phone and not my card.” Schrieber further noted that Apple could perhaps leverage beacon technology as a triggering mechanism.

Almost as common was being unaware, as 31 percent of the surveyed users were, that the merchant they were shopping at actually accepted the NFC backed payments system even though it did in fact.

About 20 percent expressed a preference for a different payment method – cash, a pay card unsupported by the platform, or something connected to a rewards program – for the specific purchase. Inability was the response of about 15 percent of sporadic users surveyed by InfoScout – either because the consumer didn’t have their phone on hand (12 percent) or because the store was not yet set-up for Apple Pay (3 percent).

It also seems there is a difference of experience among frequent and more sporadic Apple Pay users. Among the 6 percent identified as regular users by the latest InfoScout/PYMNTS Apple Pay Adoption Tracker survey – the perception of the product was strongly positive.

When the Apple Pay experience was stacked up against the swipe experience, 73 percent of users said Apple Pay was easier to use, 77 percent said it was faster, 70 percent said it was more secure and 79 percent said it was more convenient.

Among those who had tried it but weren’t using it, on the other hand, the perception was still positive – there were no results where any number of users rated the experience as worse than swiping a card – but the enthusiasm wasn’t quite there. When it comes to ease of use and speed, the majority of infrequent users rank Apple Pay as only equal to the swipe – 53 percent and 55 percent, respectively. When it comes to security, 48 percent rank the experience as equal, and 43 percent rate it as superior (this is also the category with the highest “worse” rating at 7 percent); convenience is evenly split between those who rank the experience the same and those who rate it as better – 49 percent.

The Vast Majority Of iPhone6/6+ Users Aren’t Using Apple Pay

Though Apple is making gains in use and trial, the vast majority of those who could be using Apple Pay aren’t – 85 percent still have not made use of the app at all.

“Apple Pay needs to reach the emotional and functional benefits of a wider audience if it’s really going to take off,” Schrieber noted.

So what is holding people back?

“Apple Pay is not yet salient. When it comes up, it has not registered with the [consumer] that they should use Apple Pay,” Schrieber explained. “There’s something lacking there in the habit-forming action at checkout.”

By the numbers, the main reason – affirmed by 37 percent of respondents – is that they don’t have a reason to change; they like their current payment method. Almost a third – 31 percent – are not familiar with how the system works. Security is the third concern keeping people away from Apple Pay – 15 percent of respondents listed it as a serious concern, slightly more than the 11 percent who had simply never heard of Apple Pay before being given a survey on it. Inability also played a role among those who had never tried to pay the Apple way – 5 percent responded that they had tried to register with the service, but had been unable.

Those Who Use It, Really Like It

While the persistently sluggish trial rate is of some concern, there was also much good news for the Apple Pay platform in the InfoScout/PYMNTS survey.

Among those who use the app, 30 percent report having made a decision to patronize a merchant or not based on whether they accept Apple Pay. Of that 30 percent, over 80 percent report having made that decision on more than one occasion.

“I wanted a Kickstart energy drink. Usually, I’d just go to 7-Eleven for it, because it is quick and easy. But since I remembered that Walgreens has Apple Pay… I now go there instead,” one participant told InfoScout.

Another user was more focused on the convenience: “Tired after long day at work and didn’t want to have to deal with bringing in purse and scanning cards, etc.”

The Take-Away

Apple Pay’s adoption picture has clearly improved some since November 2014 – as more potential users are hearing about it and trying it out. It also faces some primary challenges – those who can use it, like it, but often forget about it – possibly it seems because a majority of those infrequent users don’t see it as all that much better than swiping a card.

According to economist David Evans, Founder of Market Platform Dynamics, “I still think the current approach doesn’t look promising despite all the hype and the sheer desire on the part of so many to make it a success. Apple will need to either figure out a way to broaden the base of iPhone users who can use Apple Pay from just iPhone 6 users, or figure out a way to increase adoption and use among new iPhone users than it has so far. Right now, if I was a merchant, I wouldn’t care about a tiny percent of a tiny percent of iPhone users wanting to use Apple Pay and wouldn’t invest in NFC or the hassle of accepting it.” Evans has been doubtful of Apple’s chosen ignition strategy since launch, particularly since the first round of InfoScout figures were released.

Of course, Apple Pay is less than six months old – and it might be a bit much to expect a six month old endeavor to have taken over the world, even if it is launched by Apple. PYMNTS and InfoScout will continue to track Apple Pay’s adoption, and keep the ecosystem updated with all the newest results.

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