Little League baseball season recently started which meant a trip to Sports Authority to purchase the relevant equipment. Fortunately, most of the items for t-ball are in the under $20 each category which makes the financial commitment more bearable. Like most dads, the start of Little League season brings back many fond baseball memories including a controversial meeting of a reigning Miss California. When I say “controversial” I mean it raised a few eyebrows as to why she attended, whom she knew on the team and the outfit she was wearing. It turns out she was dating our team’s assistant coach and used her fashion sense to keep his attention off the game played on the field. Dads enjoyed the game that much more. Moms were furious. Funny the things one remembers from more youthful days.
I was excited about the recent trip to Sports Authority for an entirely selfish reason. I was super stoked for a chance to FINALLY use Apple Pay! When I purchased my iPhone 6 Plus, the first thing I did was load on my bank’s ATM and credit cards. Why? Because I’m a FinTech guy…and this sort of thing gets me just as excited as a chance to meet Miss California. However, my Apple Pay excitement quickly slid down into a “now what?” I really struggled to find a place to use Apple Pay within my network of retailers that I frequent. Based on a recent BI Intelligence survey, just 8% of large US retailers currently accept Apple Pay. Keep in mind this stat focuses on LARGE US RETAILERS. I don’t shop a lot at large US retailers. I’m a keep it local type of guy…or at least keep it regional type of guy. When I did visit an Apple Pay enabled business like Toys R Us the opportunity to pay with my phone slipped by for I was not reminded that my chance arrived.
When it came time to bay for the baseball pants, socks and belt I whipped out my iPhone (that scene from “Blazing Saddles” comes to mind)
with great excitement and said, “OK, I want to use Apple Pay. How do I make this work?” My question should raise grave concerns from Apple and the retailer. However, what happened next should FREAK APPLE OUT. “Uhhhh,” began the clerk. “I don’t know…let me talk to my manager.” I stopped the clerk, saving him a trip to find the manager. I scanned my phone over the payment terminal, used my touch ID and the payment was made. “Oh, great…you figured it out,” the clerk said. So wrong.
This frustration is shared with many iPhone loving friends and FinTech colleagues. Clearly Apple Pay merchant adoption needs to increase and consumers need to be reminded to us it. Hopefully this is all changing with greater merchant adoption and the launch (FINALLY!) of the Apple Watch. The same BI Intelligence survey revealed that 56% of retailers say they will accept Apple Pay by 2018. But doing the quick math, this means that 44% still will not…and we all know these merchants will be the locally owned business.
So where does Apple Watch fit in driving Apple Pay adoption? Well for starters, the payment process gets much easier for the watch will be tethered to the iPhone loaded with the relevant cards. Users double click a button on the phone, place the watch near the payment terminal and payment is made. Skin sensor technology verifies the watch is on the verified user’s wrist to prevent unauthorized use. The watch really helps make Apply Pay easy to use. Ease of use means greater user adoption.
Informing users that Apple Pay is accepted is the remaining adoption hurdle to be solved. Frankly, I’m a little surprised this hurdle has not been addressed. It seems easy to solve. Functionally needs to be implemented to push alerts to Apple Watch users when they are near a payment terminal that accepts Apple Pay. Given how integrated watches are to routine interaction and reference, these alerts will be easily seen. Better yet, leveraging the iBeacon technology, merchants can send Apple Pay alerts to customers as soon as they walk in the door and before any purchases are made. Ease of payment may be enough of a factor to push the customer to a purchase decision. I am envisioning personal finance expert, Alexa von Tobel at Learn Vest cringing right now!!!
I’m excited that we are moving closer to not having to carry a bulky wallet anymore. The Apple Watch and alerts to use Apple Pay will train and shape the right habit to eventually push me to leave a wallet at home. Now, if I can only get my drivers license, loyalty cards AND annual passes on my phone I will be wallet-less!