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Paul Skeldon, Mobile Editor, InternetRetailing investigates the state of mobile payments and consumer take up.

Across Europe 54% of shoppers are using mobile devices – be they smartphones, tablets or wearables – to make purchases on a regular basis. This number has tripled since last year, when just 18% said they were doing it.

Perhaps more interestingly, just 12% of shoppers have never used mobile to even try and make a payment nor plan to.

These figures come from a study carried out each year by Visa. This year it surveyed 36,000 online consumers in 19 European countries, and the findings show just how embedded mobile payments is becoming among consumers.

In the UK, nearly three-quarters (74%) of the people surveyed are mobile payments users. More than half of these users use their device to transfer money to friends and family (59%) and just under half use it to buy take-away meals (45%). It is this on-demand culture which is driving early adoption of m-payments across the continent.

The numbers are backed up by Visa rival Mastercard, which has also found that 40% of UK consumers now view the mobile phone as their preferred alternative to a payment card.

However, this is changing. While Hungry House and Deliveroo are at the vanguard of m-payments, the Visa study shows that many mobile payment users are as comfortable making more expensive purchases on mobile devices as they are with everyday payments. In the UK, over two-fifths (43%) purchase high-value items such as holidays and electronics on a mobile device as well as regular transactions such as paying household bills (42%) and buying bus or train tickets (41%).

Mastercard believes that the role of mobile goes deeper than mere payments. “We see the smartphone as the ‘remote control’ for consumers’ financial lives,” says Elliott Goldenberg, Head of Digital Payments for Mastercard UK & Ireland. It will be essential for authenticating transactions, controlling your account, managing payment card functions and more. “It is an incredibly powerful and practical tool for payments.”

So what does this mean for retailers and etailers? “This data is a confirmation that the future of digital payments has arrived, with consumers across the length and breadth of the UK and Europe embracing a variety of new ways to pay,” says Kevin Jenkins, UK & Ireland Managing Director at Visa. He sees smartphones and wearables as the beginning of a broader trend, with millions of new connected devices making it simple, safe and secure to integrate daily commerce transactions into almost any technology. Retailers have to be ready.

However, many aren’t entirely sure as to what they should be ready for. Mobile payments is an oft-bandied about term but what does it really mean? In essence, most mobile payment technologies involve a way to link a card or a bank account to a device with a mobile operating system. The device then acts as the card or bank account and is used to pay, often using contactless technology.

In most senses it is no different to a contactless card and the growing familiarity with this technology is helping drive the uptake of mobile payments, says Jenkins. “The uptake of contactless cards has made a significant impact on normalising digital payments in the minds of British consumers, regardless of age. The near-ubiquity of contactless card usage is gradually helping everyone engage with newer ways to pay, including mobile banking.”


There are a wealth of mobile wallets and payment services out there – from Vodafone and O2 wallets, to PayPal to bespoke bank account linked products such as Zapp, Paym and Pingit – and it is a confusing place for consumers and retailers.

Retailers face the prospect of having to rejig – at often great expense – their payments platforms to handle all of these if they are to offer a broad reach: and this is, to many, a bridge too far, so they aren’t adopting any.

That is all likely to change however thanks to Apple, Google and Samsung. Apple Pay –

the inbuilt wallet system in Apple devices –

garners a lot of headlines, but it is likely to be the way that Apple users pay for things in the years ahead. Similarly, Google’s Android Pay and Samsung’s Samsung Pay equally offer a simple, account agnostic, device-centric wallet system that is integrated into the phone.

It sounds glib, but why would anyone bother with a range of other wallets accepted in different places when there is one built into the phone?

More crucially, Apple and Google’s wallets will work online too, using the device as an authentication method for the payment. It looks pretty sewn up from where I am sitting.

“In Europe, we’ve recently seen Apple Pay launched in the UK, France and Switzerland, Samsung Pay has launched in Spain and Android Pay in the UK,” says Jenkins. “We’ve also seen a new era of wearable payments: smartwatches, wristbands and even clothing. It’s clear that this trend will continue to accelerate, enabling consumers to choose the connected device that fits with their lifestyle.”

That isn’t to say that other forms of mobile payments are dead. In Europe both Carrefour and COOP are rolling out their own mobile wallet/payment apps to consumers using the lure of loyalty schemes to make them fly.

Denmark’s COOP has been trialling a combined mobile payment and loyalty app for some months and rolled it out across all its stores in September. It decided to add payments to its already successful loyalty app to make life easier for shoppers.

“The promotional aspect of the COOP app is creating a loyal and engaged customer-base for COOP Denmark, one that is rewarded with targeted and personalised bonuses,” says Mel Taylor, CEO of Omnico, the software company that sits behind the offering. “Customers no longer want to rummage for cards to pay, or keep paper coupons remembering to use them at the till. They require fast, convenient and efficient omnichannel retailing options.”

Carrefour in France has taken a different approach. Sensing the encroachment of Apple and Android, leading French m-wallets Wa! and Fivory – run by Carrefour and the bank BNP Paribas respectively – have merged to create, in their words, a “single secure, multiservice, app-based mobile payment solution” for retail.

The new unified app will enable the customer to pay, with just a single method for their purchases both in-store and on the internet – and automatically getting their loyalty points and coupons, special offers and more in one app.

Since the two initiatives were launched, they have received the support and affiliation of a number of leading retail groups, including Auchan, Carrefour and Total, plus independent traders and other partners such as direct sales firms, events specialists and charity organisations.

“We’re seeing growing interest in the market for such a solution and it’s now vital that the complementary players work together to build and make available a solution able to meet new customer expectations in this changing world,” says BNP Paribas Group CEO Jean-Laurent Bonnafé.

Georges Plassat, Chairman and Chief Executive of Carrefour, adds: “The new opportunities opened up by digital technology have the advantage of placing the customer at the centre of all our thinking and all our concerns. We’re extremely keen to find solutions that enable us to anticipate our customers’ needs and expectations and improve both the purchasing experience and the service we provide – before, during and after the shopping expedition. This is absolutely indispensable if we’re going to do our job properly.”

Consumers are clearly voting with their thumbs when it comes to mobile payments, but for retailers the picture is still unclear as to how to actually implement the technology. Who should they back and who should they leave out? What are the challenges to doing it? And what are the pitfalls of getting it wrong?

While much has changed in a year in mobile payments, where to go with it still remains unclear.

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