The world's most innovative brand returns to retail this week, but this time it's not in the form of a shiny new device or sleek new operating system. Instead, the launch of Apple Pay
is what is exciting and troubling retailers, depending on your perspective. The new mobile payment product was announced last month at Apple's Fall event, but was rather overshadowed by the new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch (which itself will sync to and be an important element of the payment system, but more on that later.) For retailers, however, it could be the most important part of that event and usher in a new way of working at customer checkout. http://gty.im/167271603 Plenty of services have attempted to bring about the age of mobile payment but few have so far succeeded. Paypal has long been the veteran of online payment but its transition to mobile has proved surprisingly abortive, with few vendors and a lack of consumers using its limited mobile app.. Elsewhere, even with the vast resources of Google behind its Wallet service, and big name partners like American Eagle and Subway, it still hasn't captured the interest of the diverse Android user base. And Square, with the early innovation of its card reader mobile insert to bridge the gap between old and new, has been unable to move beyond small vendors and into the mainstream. Even with all of this competition, few brands are placed as strategically well as Apple to make mobile payments a mainstream reality. In what could be an estimated $100 billion industry (Forrester Research) as we reach the end of this decade, the company has moved with great purpose to make sure it has all the pieces in place before diving in. With major brand names like Whole Foods Market, McDonalds, Walgreens and Disney signed up, and the promise of easy payment across numerous devices nearing thanks to the looming Apple Watch, enough high-spending iPhone owners should be convinced to make the jump. If Apple can reach a point of traction with many consumers regularly using the service, more merchants will follow and the brand could have a cash cow on its hands. Despite the low margins,the frequency of transactions helps to make the market attractive for any company who can command a sizeable chunk of the market. For retailers, the dawn of mobile payments is a double-edged sword.
Initially it will require a certain amount of upheaval in terms of both technology and training to ensure that the system rolls out effectively. Add in more than just one service for Android users, perhaps even Windows Phone and standalone services, and we have an early adopter transition phase with the potential to get messy. Retail checkout comes right at the end of the supply chain, but it's one of the most important parts in terms of customer experience and enduring brand reputation. Moving customers through quickly and efficiently is a small part of the overall brand experience but disproportionately memorable, as it involves people's most precious currency, time. As anyone in logistics is well aware, make your customers wait too long on a regular basis and they won't be taking up your time too much longer! Once systems like Apple Pay are established, the benefits to retailers will be immense. Almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays and the automatic processing that occurs - perhaps even pre-payment as the systems mature - hold the potential to dramatically reduce wait times and keep customers coming back for more. What it all comes down to is that "time is money,"
and every minute you save your customer may well equal extra dollars spent further down the line!