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GUEST OPINION Does the UK even want Apple Pay?

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Last month saw Apple Pay finally reach UK shores. After months of waiting since its initial roll-out in the US and the instant popularity it’s had with American consumers, Brits are finally able to add Apple Pay to their list of payments options. However, will Apple Pay take off in the UK like it has in the US? Sean Wilson, MD Sage Pay advises caution

It’s no secret that Apple is notorious with taking technology that already exists and turning it into a user friendly product. The MP3 and the iPod, the tablet and the iPad…I could go on. Apple Pay is no different. The technology necessary for a business to offer it is the same technology needed to accept contactless payments.

Given UK consumer use of contactless payments is already widespread with the UK seeing an increase of 275% of contactless use last year, many UK businesses have already integrated the necessary Near-Field Communications (NFC) technology to accept contactless payments into their in-store payments solution. Therefore, there is very little that these businesses need to do in order to accept Apple Pay. If UK businesses are contactless-ready, by default they are Apple Pay-ready.

For a business, the cost and security risks of accepting Apple Pay are exactly the same as accepting contactless. As consumer demand for contactless is clearly increasing across the UK, not just around London where over 100 million contactless transactions have been made on the London Transport system alone, it’s not surprising that 36% of businesses are planning to adopt NFC technology.

Therefore, if UK businesses are contactless-ready, by default they are Apple Pay-ready.

However, despite the ease at which businesses can adapt their payments systems to accept the new payments method, our Payments Landscape report* launched prior to Apple Pay entering the UK, found that UK consumers were markedly less excited about Apple Pay than their US counterparts. Many consumers said that they will not consider using Apple Pay (61%) and just 5% say they would consider using it.

Admittedly, in the UK there are more Android users than in the US, which may help explain the lack of excitement for Apple Pay. Yet, as we’ve seen with contactless payments, any new piece of consumer technology takes a while to make its impact on the masses. While we, as payments experts, welcome this move from Apple, the impact might take a little while to fully work through UK consumers at large.

What’s interesting to note is that the exclusivity element of Apple Pay is also about to change. Google is due to launch its own Android-friendly equivalent to Apple Pay which might prove more popular here in the UK due to our large numbers of Android phone users. With Google stepping into the payments industry and rivalling Apple, will Apple Pay have time to make much of an impact here before it’s Android counterpart enters the scene?

Whatever the outcome, Apple Pay represents another new payments method which adds to the already varied payments demands of their customers. UK merchants need to integrate NFC into their existing payments solution in order to offer their customers the range of payments methods that they’ve become accustomed to.

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