Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why Apple's Tap to Pay Will Not Change Commerce

I believe that habits will ultimately make Apple Pay not so revolutionary as it is being made out. They are essentially repackaging what has already been done; but, beyond that, the reason it won't be ubiquitous is low tech in nature, human nature, rather.

+Google Wallet already does most of what Apple Pay proposes. The technology is different, given that mobile carriers did not want to allow access to a phone's secure element. Yada yada. In any case, my problem with Google Wallet, specifically tap to pay, has been that it doesn't work everywhere. I'll come back to this.

It is great that Apple has partnerships with 200K merchants and Target. The problem for Apple, however, is that I don't use Apple products, nor plan to use them anytime soon. Having merchant partnerships isn't compelling enough reason for me to buy an iPhone 6. There are millions of people like me who really don't care to enter the Apple ecosphere.

Given the reluctance of millions to use Apple products, there must be an alternative payment system available to us. I don't see a merchant turning my business away because I don't have an iPhone. So, this means that Apple Pay will only be an option for merchants.

This opt-in is what gives me trouble using Google Wallet. I do business with local merchants, mom and pop shops and restaurants. Not every business uses tap to pay of any sort. And, those merchants that do have a tap to pay terminal do not always have it enabled. This means that on the chance you enter an establishment that has a tap to pay terminal, there is a good chance you'll find one that doesn't have tap to pay service, only the terminal. You don't find out until you spent a little time looking like an ass trying to get it to work.

If you look like an ass trying to get tap to pay to work often enough, you stop trying. It's much more efficient to whip out your trusty old debit card and pay with that.

Apple Pay will be no different. 200K merchants sounds impressive; but, like Apple, they are most likely the overpriced and chain establishments, not the average local business that relies on the lowest common denominators, cash, check, and swipe.

I'm not saying Apple Pay will fail. I'm sure it will do very well among Apple fans; but, they will only have to look like an ass trying to tap and pay somewhere unsupported a few times before they become reluctant to whip out their phone first.

Telling you from experience, on the chance that you do find an establishment that has working tap to pay, it's not a compelling reason to return. I go to a restaurant because I'm hungry. I go to the grocery store because I need groceries. And, so on. I won't deliberately visit an establishment more often so I can use my Jedi payment trick.

Tap to pay is cool; but, it's not compelling. It doesn't make me spend more. It doesn't make me choose one merchant over another.

Having said that, what really has modified my shopping habits is having rewards cards on my phone. It makes it so much easier to take advantage of rewards programs to have them on my phone. I never used to sign up for them because I hated having to carry their stupid little cards in my wallet. But, now, I actually do sign up for rewards programs and use them when I shop.

I think that for technology to be useful and widespread, it has to have some common denominator and even have alternative options. So long as we have swipe payments, I see those as being the predominant payment method because they work reliably and almost everywhere.
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