I remember being swept up in the early Foursquare craze. I raced around my little town checking in at my local Starbucks and favorite lunch spots to become The Mayor. I worked hard to keep it by doing drive by check ins as I was stuck at traffic lights. I know, I’m hyper competitive on certain things. Friends and I would compete on who could win the most badges too! I quickly earned the “jet setter” badge with frequent flights from SJC to SNA. Other friends won the “crunked” badge with late night shenanigans. Ahh to be a DINK again. All for what? For pure competition and Facebook feed bragging rights!
At a deeper level, I hoped that eventually I’d receive relevant geographically based alerts and rewards on my phone as I walked by a restaurant or store. Unfortunately, many of these rewards required an AMEX card subscription (creating a HUGE hurdle) or were nothing more than a free drink at check in. Big whoop. Sigh…it was very clear that geo based local marketing had not made the jump from great concepts to effective execution. However, this is all changing quickly with the launch of mobile payment solutions like Apple Pay and well designed retail loyalty mobile apps. Real customer value can be delivered at the right time. Banks can also make HUGE strides in building more meaningful customer relationships beyond checking accounts. FINALLY!!!!!
My family and I are loyal Safeway customers for the majority of our food. The loyalty was solidified by Safeway launching a program that contained several weekly coupons and special offers based on shopping activity. A key component of the loyalty program is the Safeway mobile app which serves as the main touch point for how offers are communicated to consumers. Just recently, Safeway has pushed daily offers that appear on the front scream of my mobile device. Last week I made a special trip into Safeway’s deli to take advantage of a sandwich offer that was delivered to my phone that morning. Cool. There are several other retail apps, Starbucks for example, that deliver this customer value in a similar way. All of these apps have a way to go on using geo fencing technology to send me offers as I’m nearby or actually in store. Clearly this will be coming!
I mentioned in a previous post that I recently completed my first Apple Pay transaction at Sports Authority. It took me 6 months to actually do this after I loaded all of my cards. Honestly, I forgot to use Apple Pay and struggled with finding locations that use it. I opine in my last post that Apple Pay must do a lot more to remind users that “Apple Pay is Accepted Here” to drive adoption. Steps are being taken to do so for I saw an Apple Pay logo appear on a Walmart payment terminal as I purchased Easter cards.
So where do banks fit in creating greater customer value? Apple Pay requires that customers enter in debit cards and credit cards to make payment. Banks provide these cards. Banks frequently offer rewards programs and provide an incentive to shop a designated retail location. By not actively engaging in this payments ecosystem, banks are LOSING OUT BIG TIME on engaging with customers in a meaningful way with relevant, geo targeted offers.
For example, let’s say a consumer is using a Wells Fargo bank card for Apple Pay. The consumer pays for items at Walmart that is a member of Well’s Earn More Mall program. The consumer is then informed that they receive double points and are reminded of other Earn More Mall retailers that may be geographically close by. How powerful is that for Wells to influence consumer purchase decision and drive usage of its cards?!
Unfortunately, this type of consumer influence will not be available to banks through Apple Pay. Apple has decided to not share consumer purchase data with card providers/banks. Clearly Apple is looking to own the consumer relationship AND control the valuable behavioral data. However, given the amount of marketing activity driven by banks, especially Wells Fargo, this seems a little one-sided of Apple…giving room for a competitive payment platform that helps consumers AND banks. Banks need to use their power to guide the creation of a payments ecosystem that builds deeper customer relationships.
As we all know, Android OS based Samsung announced the acquisition of LoopPay as their digital payments platform and competitive solution. It would not be surprising if the Android OS based Samsung phones enable banks to access purchasing data to banks and provide the channel to communicate special offers. For a fee, of course. Apple and Samsung need to be reminded of the power banks have in the transaction process. Banks provide the cards! Strangely, BANKS need to be reminded of the power THEY have in influencing the payment ecosystem. The larger banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, have enormous power. At the current moment, banks are willing to draft on the success of Apple Pay. Wells Fargo even promotes their Apple Pay features in TV commercials. Cleary banks see value in positioning themselves as “cutting edge.” However, this affiliation is purely brand driven and not consumer value drive. If a bank can be promised greater access to consumer data AND direct access to consumers through the device, banks will drive great consumer value while promoting new technology. Because of the consumer value focus, banks will promote one payments solution over another…and mean it.
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!
I was glued to my computer on September 9th to watch the live stream of Apple’s BIG announcements. As a fin tech guy, I was particularly interested in what Apple would announce around mobile payments and their creation of a true mobile wallet. I had my fingers crossed that the stream would not freeze during that part! They did not disappoint with the launch of Apple Pay and the announcement of the several major banks and retailers that are participating in the network. Apple did it right…again. These bank and retailer partnerships are key to quickly driving adoption. Consumers do not need to change how they pay for things, download any apps or struggle to find retailers who accept a certain form of payment. The only “hurdle” to participate in this payments network is for consumers to buy the iPhone 6.
The major banks started aggressively promoting their participation with Apple Pay the day after the big announcement. As a matter of fact, I received an email from Wells Fargo the following morning informing me of the many features and benefits of Apple Pay. I also noticed similar messaging on Wells Fargo’s ATMs that day as well. Wow, major banks see Apple Pay as a benefit for the current customer audience. It will be interesting to see if Wells Fargo, and the other major banks, lead with Apple Pay messaging as part of a customer acquisition or switch marketing program.
The aggressive promotion by banks and retailers also helps Apple too. Keep in mind that while the iPhone 6 was available on Friday, Sept 19 with HUGE lines outside Apple stores, 75% of all handset users worldwide run the Android operating system. Hmmm….will the creation of a secure mobile wallet be enough to cause Android toting bank customers worldwide to switch to an iPhone? Or will Android users be patient to see what payment platform Samsung and Loopts come up with in the months to come? The intensity and reach of the awareness messaging just might cause some Android users to shift…assuming the iPhone 6 and Apple Pay are AMAZING. Time will tell. The race to create the leading mobile wallet is ON. It is so on.
On a side note, it is truly amazing that Apple has such strong brand power that powerful, multi-billion dollar market cap financial institutions have taken notice and forged partnerships. Yes, Apple is THE LEADING worldwide brand. These partnerships also echo a common theme within the financial technology industry; technology innovation will happen outside the financial institution. So true. Apple, you are so money.*
* I’ve sprinkled many “Easter Eggs” through out my posts to make reading more fun. These eggs include cultural references from the ‘80s, ‘90s and present day. If you get the reference, send me a tweet (@ericdunstan) with the answer.
I have to admit that I was GLUED to my computer screen this morning during the Apple announcement. It still blows my mind that technology and bandwidth can’t deliver a smooth online feed to a live event. What was up with the live translation feeds being clearly audible to online viewers? ANNOYING! Fortunately the live stream technical team saw the multiple tweets and fixed the problem. Unfortunately my viewing experience was very choppy and I got word of the announcement in real time more from Twitter.
As predicted, Apple entered BIG into payments with Apple Pay and into wearables too with Apple Watch too. Apple’s recent announcements around partnerships with Visa, Amex, MasterCard etc were clear leading indicators of the entry into payments. I am very excited about Apple’s payment system and how it will help drive mass consumer adoption of a true mobile wallet. Yean! However, we are a ways away from Apple driving mass adoption of their wallet.
Apple Pay will be available on the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch devices for it requires technology included only in this hardware. Yes, the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch will set sales records and proliferation will be fast across the globe. However, Apple Pay will not be available on legacy devices that will slow down the adoption rate. Additionally, Apple Pay will be limited to major retailers including Whole Foods, Macy’s and Toys R Us. Yes, over 200,000 stores will be accepting contactless payments through Apple Pay. I’m sure Apple is busy negotiating partnerships with several other major retailers as well and the footprint will grow even more.
Apple Pay will not be available to stores outside of this Apple negotiated big box retailer network. Consumers will not be able to truly leave their wallet at home. Apple’s partnership with IBM, though, will help Apple Pay expand its footprint to more business….but it will take time. As I mentioned in a previous post, the IBM partnership provides Apple access to many banks and financial institutions. These FIs have business banking customers and frequently provide merchants with POS payment systems. Now that the iPhone 6 includes the NFC chip, Apple will be hot to engage IBM on pushing the distribution of NFC enabled payment terminals to their banking customers. Only until NFC enabled payment terminals are more widely distributed will Apple gain ownership of the mobile wallet.
Clearly Apple has the hardware, technology and strategic partnerships to create the closed loop necessary to build a ubiquitous payment system. It’s a matter of time before this happens. However, NFC technology and devices are not Apple technology and can be easily licensed by competitors. Yes, Apple has leap fogged into the lead on building a mobile wallet, but the competition did see this coming. Apple must continue adding nationwide retailers to their network to enable consumers to use Apple Pay. The first mover advantage will be key and the network affects will take hold. If a competitor is to provide another offering for consumers and merchants, they better act FAST. Samsung and Loopt I’m sure are having lunch right now.
On a side note, I am amazed by the level of talent Apple employs for their advertising and marketing efforts; JT, Jimmie Fallon and U2. A list talent meets A + list company. I’m sure Apple pays a large portion of the marketing budget for these names. Or maybe it’s vice versa! Let this be a reminder of the high margins Apple receives on every product they sell. Impressive.