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Mobile payments to replace cards and cash, but not immediately: report

While the majority of Americans expect payments made via a smartphone will eventually replace credit cards and cash, a new report from Harris Interactive also suggests that the changeover to mobile payments may not be imminent.

Harris Interactive found that 66 percent of Americans believe smartphone payments will eventually replace card payments and 61 percent say the same for cash. However, the survey also found that many consumers are currently not that interested in mobile payments themselves and believe the switch to mobile payments is several years or more off.

“The biggest news for retailers is that the majority of Americans do believe this is coming,” said Regina A. Corso, senior vice president of Harris Poll and Public Relations, New York.Granted, not overnight or this year, but it’s not the distant future either.

“Also, since the younger consumers are the ones more likely to be using their smartphones already or more likely to head in this direction, retailers may want to look at this as a potential way to market directly to them. You can shop at our store and you do not even need to bring in your wallet – just that one thing you always carry, your phone,” she said.

“What surprised us the most was that a majority do believe that cash and credit cards may be going away. While payments have changed over the years, the fact that three in five Americans believe smartphones will replace cash for a majority of transactions is staggering, especially when you look at the quarter who believe this will happen in less than five years.”

4pc make mobile payment
Key findings include that only four percent of Americans have paid for a purchase via a smartphone and eight percent have witnessed a mobile payment. Responses were stronger for smartphone owners, with seven percent having made a mobile payment and 11 percent having witnessed one.

The survey of 2,383 Americans took place between Nov. 14 and 19.

While there is strong belief that mobile payments are coming eventually, many Americans do not feel that the changeover is imminent, with two percent saying it will happen within the next year, 12 percent in one year to less than three years, 19 percent in three years to less than five years, 19 percent in five years to less than 10 years and 15 percent in ten years or more.

Additionally, few of the consumers surveyed expressed strong interest in replacing their own cash or card transactions with the tap of a smartphone, with 27 percent of Americans and 44 percent of smartphone owners reporting interest in being able to use their smartphone to process in-person payments. Additionally, only eight percent of Americans and 16 percent of smartphone owners are “very interested” in smartphone payments.

Interest stronger for Millennials
However, the survey found that some segments are more interested than others in mobile payments.

By generation, 40 percent of Echo Boomers or Millennials and 34 percent of Gen Xers are interested in mobile payments compared with just 18 percent of Baby Boomers and seven percent of mature consumers.

By gender, 32 percent of men are interested in mobile payments versus 22 percent of women.

Additionally, 38 percent of consumers in households with children are interested in mobile payments compared with 22 percent of consumers in households with none.

No reason to switch
Security is one the main factors discouraging some consumers from engaging in mobile payments.

Among those who indicate being either not very or not at all interested in smartphone payments, 51 percent  say they do not want to store sensitive information on their phone. Additionally, 40 percent do not want to transmit sensitive information to a merchant’s device.

Another impediment is smartphone ownership, with 50 percent of those not interested in mobile payments saying it is because they do not use a smartphone.

The results also suggest that mobile payment providers have not given consumers a strong enough reason to use their smartphone to pay for purchases, with 52 percent saying that they do not see any reason to switch from card payments or cash.

Some of the initiatives to better integrate smartphones into consumers’ payments habits are not being met with significant interest, with 28 percent of Americans and 40 percent of smartphone owners saying that being able to take advantage of their existing credit card rewards programs would make them more interested in mobile payments. However, only 9 percent of Americans and 15 percent of smartphone owners say they would be much more interested.

Additionally, only 30 percent of Americans and 43 percent of smartphone owners would be more interested in mobile payments if they were able to use their smartphones as a digital wallet with electronic versions of their identifications, loyalty program cards and other documentation normally carried in a  wallet. Far fewer – 8 percent of Americans and 12 percent of smartphone owners – would be much more interested.

The results suggest that the mobile payment industry still needs to find a strong reason for Americans to change how they will pay for purchases going forward. This means paying attention to how Americans pay now and looking for a need that they can address.

“I don’t retailers must act now, but they must be preparing to act,” Ms. Corso said.

“I don’t know what the mechanics behind this transition will need to be, but I’m guessing it’s not as easy as flipping a switch, especially for a larger retailer,” she said.

“If they aren’t already in at least the early planning stages, other retailers who are will beat them to this and, may win over shoppers who are ready to make their lives both cashless and credit cardless.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York