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Why OpenTable is banking on Apple Pay’s meteoric rise

PALM DESERT, CA – An OpenTable executive at eTail West 2016 revealed that the reservation service sees significant Apple Pay activations occur on a daily basis, likely due to the proliferation of iPhone users in the market.

During the panel discussion, “Closing The Gap Between Consumers And Retailers Expectations Around Payment Options,” executives from OpenTable, eBags and FuturePay detailed the rise of mobile payment services – most notably, Apple Pay – and their effect on the restaurant and retail sectors. Brands seeking to bolster their current checkout experiences should ensure that payment technology feels invisible, therefore enabling customers to enjoy a frictionless process with a few loyalty tie-ins.

“We’re seeing really great numbers in terms of Apple Pay activations on a daily basis,” said Tomer Molovinsky, senior product marketing manager of payments at OpenTable. “We’re seeing the numbers build up. We see the potential there.”

Invisible technology
Mr. Molovinsky tapped invisible payments as one major trend to watch. Ride-sharing application Uber was one of the first innovators to kick off this trend by allowing users to book a ride, hop in the car and have the transaction emailed to them, all without having to manually pay for the service.

OpenTable is starting to adopt that model by enabling customers to pay their restaurant bills without physically inputting information into their mobile devices.

The company’s initial product was a pay-at-the-table solution that had a deep integration with point-of-sale. However, some of the point-of-sale firms were tricky to deal with, prompting OpenTable to pivot its product and build an ecosystem that is point-of-sale-friendly but not entirely dependent upon it.

Meanwhile, online retailer eBags is still pinpointing touchpoints containing friction by doing customer surveys related to usability. It is also attempting to cater to international customers by teaming up with digital payment providers including Alipay and WeChat Payment.

Additionally, eBags is surveying consumers to deduce what kinds of services they are searching for that the company may not currently offer.

Retailers cannot discount the meteoric rise of mobile payment platforms, as four out of ten transactions are now affected by mobile in some way, per Denise Purtzer, vice president of business development at FuturePay.

“Those alternative payments are definitely emerging and becoming a part of everyday happenings,” she said.

While PayPal is undeniably considered a digital payment behemoth, OpenTable has found that Apple Pay and Android Pay appeal to its biggest user bases. The restaurant reservations brand’s backend is powered by Stripe.

Capturing elusive millennials
Marketers targeting younger consumers must also keep in mind that millennials tend to approach making purchases with a different mindset than previous generations.

“You’ve got an audience that’s grown up quite differently than the [Baby] boomers,” Ms. Purtzer said. “[Millennials are] a little bit more discerning. They have mobile on hand at all times.

“They’re checking prices, they want it quickly, they want it cheaply, and they want it without much pain,” she said. “You’ve also got a millennial audience who is a little bit untrustworthy of the whole credit card structure. Two-thirds of millennials don’t even have credit cards. So if you’re trying to capture that audience and you’re only offering credit cards, you’re missing out.”

The average site has approximately six different types of payment options. However, a top-performing site could have as many as fifteen different options.

“Millennials want choices and you’ve got to be able to provide those,” Ms. Purtzer said.

Another huge opportunity for marketers lies in having loyalty tie-ins during or after the checkout experience. The OpenTable executive revealed there is a big opportunity in driving engagement via receipts, whether it is a refer-a-friend promotion or any type of loyalty program.

Therefore, it is important to make sure that your brand’s payment service provider is compatible with technology that encourages consumers to sign up for programs designed to build retention.

The most imperative facet of the process, however, is to provide a seamless, frictionless experience that will keep customers coming back in the future.

“What we’ve realized is remove the technology, and focus on the experience,” OpenTable’s Mr. Molovinsky said.