But payment has also improved many experiences – contactless payment has smoothed the flow of commuters on the London Underground, and PayPal has long since made eBay a safe place to shop.

Let’s look at payment now, as well as looking forward a few years to innovations by Google, amongst others, and examine how payments can continue to innovate the customer experience.

At the moment, mobile payment in stores is disappointing users

The smartphone as a form of payment in-store is currently disappointing users. The US uptake of Apple Pay attests to this fact.

In a country where contactless cards are virtually non-existent, one would expect the dominant mobile proximity payment service to be thriving.

However, repeat usage of Apple Pay in the US decreased from March 2015 to March 2016 and there was a drop-off in eligible transactions from 5.9% to 3.5% (stats via PYMNTS.com).

In the UK, the picture is different. 63% of all debit cards are contactless and contactless accounted for 18% of card payments in May 2016, available at c.19% of all card terminals.

Indeed, charity is one sector making the most of this ease of payment.

Yes, user adoption and rollout of infrastructure go hand in hand, but this stark comparison between Apple Pay in the US and contactless cards in the UK shows us that one technology significantly improves the customer experience, and the other does not.

apple pay

via flickr

Why is in-store mobile payment disappointing?

Again using Apple Pay as an example – it is slower than a contactless card, and often slower than EMV (chip and pin) because a PIN number is sometimes still requested with Apple Pay (varies by country, amount and whether set up as a debit or credit card).

Ease of use is complicated by its availability (“Do you take Apple Pay?”) and set-up.

Users with contactless cards have zero set-up, whereas they have to enter payment details into Apple Pay, add their thumbprint etc.

The reason why these are seen as annoyances is because there is no perceived value exchange for the customer.

There are, of course, well known exceptions – examples of mobile payment being adopted as part of an improved customer experience.

The exceptions

Starbucks Order & Pay, Dunkin Donuts

Loyalty apps that include payment are generally confined to the food and drink market, where regular purchases and many store locations make this a welcome way of tracking spend and loyalty, and speeding up checkout.

Starbucks’ Order & Pay allows users to bypass the queue altogether.

order & pay

Disney MagicBand

Even more of a captive market – when you create your own world, it’s easier to introduce a mobile payment band that’s accepted everywhere.

The band changes the sales dynamic, allowing Disney to sell benefits up front and customers to skip queues, unlock their hotel room door, pay for meals etc.

In many ways, this is a utopian microcosm where one mobile (non-card) payment method is fully integrated and its adoption is high due to many perceived benefits.

Walmart and CVS

Grocery and pharmacy are other sectors where the loyalty/customer experience app with integrated payment makes sense.

Walmart has 22m MAUs of its app. The retailer has recently implemented Walmart Pay across all of its stores, using a QR system similar to Starbucks.

This means payment occurs through the app, effectively as an online payment at the till.

Reasons for the development of this system were to allow access from any device (as opposed to the fairly selective systems of Apple, Samsung and Android Pay) and to encourage more engagement with the app.

Loyalty and payment becomes one interaction.

walmart pay


These examples are all very specific use cases and not something a smaller business could easily adopt.

So, what will improve customer experience further?

Unsuprisingly, Google is the company creating the most excitement, through two ventures in particular.

Google Hands Free

What if your face was your mobile wallet? That’s the idea with Google Hands Free, where users would tell the cashier they want to ‘pay with Google’ and facial recognition would debit an account.

This has quite obvious benefits for customer experience – one could leave the house with nothing and still make a speedy transaction.

As an identical twin though, I hope the tech will know the difference between me and my brother.

Security can be greatly increased by biometrics, if it means less leaving your card in a machine.

google hands free

Google Nearby and Android Instant Apps

One of the main problems with apps in general, but also mobile payment in-app, is encouraging users to download the app in the first place.

Google’s announcement of Android Instant Apps, where part of app functionalty can be streamed in browser with fairly light data usage, hints at a future where much more functionality can be offered for mobile users, quickly and easily.

Taking advantage of offers in store or paying for something (let’s again use the example of a service, such as parking) could be done via Instant App.

And if a URL could be served directly to the customer, perhaps via a beacon or NFC, this seems an easy way to integrate experiences into shopping.

Integrated with Google Nearby, Google’s new way of flagging up nearby services and offering access to them (over WiFi, bluetooth or sound), the phone can be envisaged suddenly as the best way to get value from a retailer/event/service, with payment included.

android instant apps

But do online wallets need to improve?

There’s one catch to the Google scenarios discussed above – some form of mobile wallet still needs to be adopted by the customer for Google Hands Free, and also ideally for Instant Apps (to avoid clunky payment fields).

Granted, new mobile payment methods will always require the user to set them up, adding their bank details, but there’s still the prospect of a fragmented ecosystem forcing the customer to do this too often.

Coming back to the present day, this lack of decent UX in online payment is being addressed by some. The following innovations are worth taking note of.


One-click political donation was enabled in-app, a significant contributor to Bernie Sanders’ fundraising efforts.

SouthWest Airlines

Travellers can pay by Amazon for inflight products (such as WiFi), using the Amazon entertainment system.

Amazon is developing ‘Pay with Amazon’, the ability for users to checkout with their Amazon account, or to ‘check-in’, where they authorise a service to use one-click checkout any time it is needed.


Allows payment within social media channels, alongside providing information and boarding passes.


Ordering via Messenger is possible with the DomBot, once payment and regular order has been set up.

domino's pizza bot


While all these are great experiences that involve payment, no online wallet is really being adopted far and wide (i.e. the ability to avoid entering card details when on a website).

Apple Pay does allow this, though the user must be in Safari on a Mac and have an iPhone 6, so not much use really. The hype has died down on other online wallets, too.

Payment companies such as Visa are pushing their own online wallets, and perhaps this is where the biggest change is set to come over the next few years.

In conclusion…

There’s plenty to be excited about when it comes to mobile experiences that include payment.

Personally, I’m betting physical infrastructure is going to fall away even further and the number of services we access or pay for via mobile will increase dramatically – from ticketing to food.

As banking on mobile increases (an ING study of 15,000 mobile owners across 13 European countries, the US and AU, showed 41% used mobile banking), and apps get slicker (such as the peer-to-peer payment app Venmo), the link between mobile and money will only get stronger in the user’s mind.