Contactless payments stalled by ‘speed’

ICM Research issued a damning report into contactless technology this week, which suggested a lack of marketing support from retailers is stifling uptake of the wave and pay method. This comes in spite of consumers’ high level of awareness in contactless payments. Shoppers haven’t been told why they should use it, so they simply don’t bother.

Lara O'Reilly

Of 26 high street stores visited on ICM’s mystery shop, just 11 offered contactless payment facilities and of those that did, only three visibly promoted the technology.

And while 80 per cent of respondents to the online consumer survey claimed to be aware of contactless payment, one in seven only realised they actually owned a contactless card when asked to check the symbol on the cards in their wallets.

A separate study from eDigitalResearch, which looked into mobile contactless payments, found that while awareness is on the increase, the consumers it surveyed don’t think that there are any benefits to the technology “whatsoever”.

I’m inclined to agree with them.

ICM pinned the blame on retailers dragging their feet by not doing enough to market contactless technology in-store.

More than 140,000 contactless payment terminals have been set up in the UK to date. Perhaps more of the industry’s budget should have been towards marketing as well as for the installation of the technology to facilitate such payments.

Much of the marketing from contactless card providers so far has focused around “wave and pay”, which they claim will help consumers save time and free up more staff for customer service queries.

But to convince consumers to change their purchase behaviour, the industry needs to do more than tell them they can save a couple of seconds. We’re not all that busy that we can’t afford two seconds at the till any more – just think how many hours a week people waste on social networks.

In fact, given the limited education staff at retailers have been given about using contactless, trying to wave and pay”over a terminal is likely to add more seconds to the process – a process that still involves queuing, speaking to a staff member and waiting for the transaction to go through.

At the moment the argument for contactless payment is less than convincing.

Just as EE has extended its marketing around 4G to include its add-on services, the contactless industry needs to focus on much more than speed. Why have more campaigns not been geared around security, loyalty, deals or other bolt-on offers? Perhaps TfL’s move to include contactless debit and credit card payments on the capital’s buses and trains will help push convenience over speed, but there’s clearly a long journey ahead yet.

If the contactless payment industry really wants the technology to take off in the UK it must focus on the added benefits contactless can bring, rather than base its communications around a proposition that – for the moment anyway – is not necessarily true.

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