Apple’s officially made it through Year 1, a time period marked by extraordinary fanfare, debate, and lots and lots of scrutiny.
Which, in fairness, is probably what Apple should have expected.
First, because they are Apple. And second because Tim Cook rather boldly declared that 2015 would be “the Year of Apple Pay.” This may as well have been an invitation to study Apple Pay incredibly closely for the rest of 2015.
So was 2015 the Year of Apple Pay?
Depends on what you’re measuring.
In terms of interest and attention and hype, it’s safe to say that Apple Pay won that prize. Many payments platforms (some from very high-profile players) hit the market this year, and maybe all of them combined got the about half the media attention Apple Pay did. Moreover, Apple Pay is the only mobile payments platforms that has credit card issuers and the card networks doing (and paying for) its advertising for them.
In terms of adoption among consumers and merchants?
Well, not so much.
We spent the last year, in partnership with InfoScout, documenting consumer usage. Every quarter we ask consumers with iPhone 6 and now 6s, who are in stores that accept Apple Pay why they did or didn’t use it to make their purchases. We launched our Apple Pay Adoption Tracker last November, on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S.), and updated it last March and last June. Altogether they paint a picture of a payments platform with the potential to be popular, but one that also has a long road to go in acquiring consumers.
We now have four quarters — a full year — of results to show the trend in consumer trial and adoption, consumers who are capable of using Apple Pay and either did or didn’t.
Today, we’re releasing the latest edition.
There’s a reason that Tim Cook releases numbers for just about everything else Apple is doing. The numbers overall just aren’t compelling yet.
There are two big headlines from the most recent data.
The first is how many people have ever tried Apple Pay ever since having their iPhone 6/6s. This quarter, that number is 16.6 percent.
The second is usage (think of this as transaction activity). So, of those people who have iPhone 6/6s and are standing in front of a POS terminal that accepts it, how many use it to pay? That number stands at 5.1 percent of all Apple Pay eligible transactions.
Those who didn’t use Apple Pay in a transaction where they could have (and who had used it in the past) had two primary reasons for not tapping with Apple Pay. As we have seen in past surveys, they either forgot (30.1 percent) or didn’t know that the store they were in offered it (30.1 percent). This has been a persistent problem for Apple Pay all year.
Other reasons cited included being rewarded for using another method of payment (11.1 percent), didn’t have their phone (9.7 percent) thought it took too long (4.6 percent) and were scared it wouldn’t work (3.2 percent). About 11 percent had an unspecified reason.
It will be interesting to watch whether Apple Pay’s new loyalty/promotional add on will improve these numbers next time.
Those who used it were pretty favorably disposed toward using it again, with ~40 percent saying that they use it whenever they remember to, and ~33 percent noting they used it whenever they can. Those regular users rank it superior to existing methods of checkout for speed, security and convenience. For ease of use, it was tied with current methods of payment about 48 percent of the time, and superior 47 percent of the time. That is a consistent pattern over the last several surveys, too. The early adopters ranked it as superior, as more consumers try it, their impression of it as a superior method of payments at the checkout has been somewhat tempered.
On the bright side, these data represent a slight improvement.
Just about a year ago, in November 2014, Apple Pay’s trial rate was a little shy of 10 percent, and by March that had grown to about 15 percent. . Unfortunately, when measured in June, that figure seemed to be headed in the wrong direction, having fallen to 13.1 percent. The 16.6 percent this time around is an uptick – and puts it back on par with March’s results.
However, while numbers show some improvement, they’re still not on fire.
Eighty-three (83.4) percent of those who could use Apple Pay haven’t even tried it. And when someone with an iPhone 6 is standing in front of POS terminal that takes it, the chance they will actually pay with Apple Pay is about 1 in 20 (based on the 5.1 percent of transactions number reported above).
What is really helping boost Apple Pay’s numbers are the sales of the iPhone 6. We estimate that there are 55 million iPhone 6/6s in the U.S. That means that there are 2.8 million “regular” users of Apple Pay—that is who use it to pay for a typical transaction. That puts Apple Pay penetration at about 1.4 percent of the U.S. adult population in the U.S.—that is slightly more than 1 out of every customers who walks into a store, with an terminal that can take Apple Pay, will actually pull out an iPhone 6 or 6s and use Apple Pay to pay.
For that number to grow, three things need to happen:
Apple needs to sell more iPhone 6/6s – that doesn’t seem to be their problem, but eventually the market will be saturated.
What is a problem though, is getting people hooked. Apple needs to boost both trial, and usage which seems stuck. That’s a function of habituation – giving people a reason to use it and then use it a lot, at places that accept NFC transactions. The long pole in the tent is merchant acceptance, which is slow. Some experts estimate that there are ~13 million POS terminals in the U.S., not counting vending machines and parking stations. At the moment, penetration is low, and at the places where habituation matters a lot – food services, gasoline, everyday spend – consumers and merchants both are prioritizing around other methods of cloud-based “checkout” – like mobile order ahead.
So is Apple Pay the bellwether for mobile payments?
Perhaps, but not in the way that many predicted a year ago. Results to date show the same set of struggles that every other NFC-based mobile payments scheme has had at the physical point of sale. Then, as now, the biggest risk to Apple Pay ignition is time – the time it takes for all of the technology stars to align – merchant acceptance and consumer habituation – at the same time that innovations that are truly reinventing the checkout process are emerging.
For more news on Apple Pay adoption, click here.