Some retailers are sceptical, but Apple Pay has the potential to drive popular acceptance of contactless payment in this country.

Given the fanfare that has greeted details of the launch of Apple Pay in the UK you would be forgiven for concluding this was the most significant technology development in retail this year.

With typical Apple bravado, the company’s chief executive Tim Cook announced in January that 2015 would be the “year of Apple Pay” and the column inches devoted to the development this week have done little to dispel that notion.

Certainly there is much to be excited about.


Most importantly for retailers, it is compatible with contactless sales terminals, so no hardware upgrades are required. Apple will not charge retailers fees and the Apple brand has already ensured the kind of publicity that will be required to deliver any sort of critical mass in usage among consumers.

“The ease of the technology will help reduce queues and friction in-store”

Chris-Brook Carter

Furthermore, as store chiefs obsess about customer experience, the ease of the technology will help reduce queues and friction in-store. And its ability to also work as a tool for online payments should offer the potential to increase conversion rates as this channel continues to grow exponentially.

Yet for all this, there remain some notable doubts about whether Apple Pay will be quite the panacea in payments its supporters predict. It has, unarguably, garnered widespread backing in the banking and retail sectors, but that support still has some notable exceptions.

Those wary of jumping on the bandwagon point to continued concerns around security and data protection in contactless payments as well as to reports from the US that take-up of the technology has been slower than Apple predicted.

And, the £20 limit (increasing to £30 later in the year) to in-store contactless transactions remains a barrier to the practical expansion of the service for the large number of retailers with average basket sizes outside this nominal amount.

Brand power

Off the record, retail leaders will tell you that payment technologies remain relatively low down on the list as they grapple to make sense of the plethora of investment priorities that every retailer faces today. And in many there is even still confusion about where responsibility for the technology lies. Finance? IT? Ecommerce? Retail operations?

But much of the reticence to commit greater resources to exploring the potential of payment technologies to build on the customer experience, and in so doing loyalty and conversion, has stemmed from the hitherto fragmented nature of the market and ongoing scepticism about consumer take-up.

In Apple, retail finally has a brand with the power and credibility among consumers to take a sizeable enough bite of the market to create scale.

Moreover, it is a brand with an unrivalled track record for creating technologies that delight and disrupt in equal measure and break down perceptions of the status quo. This may yet be the first step to contactless moving into the mainstream.