Apple Pay has launched in Britain today (July 14), allowing owners of the company's newest products to make contactless transactions with their devices.
The service is now linked to over 250,000 retailers and companies across the UK, including Waitrose, Lidl, Boots and Marks & Spencer, as well as Transport for London’s bus and rail networks.
Apple has also partnered with a number of UK banks and building societies, including Santander, Natwest, Nationwide and Barclays in its attempt to bring contactless payment out to the masses.
The new service was made available to US consumers in October, and utilises the in-built fingerprint scanner and near-field communication (NFC) chips in iPhone 6 and Apple Watch products to make payments when near a contactless card reader.
Most purchases through Apple Pay in the UK currently have a £20 cap, with this figure reportedly due to rise to £30 in September.
For brands, the application of NFC goes beyond that of mobile payments, and they’ll be looking for opportunities to close the loop between offers and redemption to enhance customer loyalty initiatives.
While Apple’s privacy statement promises that ‘Pay’ doesn’t collect any information that “can be tied back” to the consumer, the tech firm is able to track the time and place of real-world purchases if the user has “location services” switched on.
However, if Apple Pay is used to buy something through an iAd promotion - the company’s mobile ad platform - anonymous details of the purchase are shared with the advertiser.
The potential for gathering more detailed transaction data will be limited, however, with Apple’s anti-fraud technology restricting the tracking of card numbers at the Point-of-Sale, limiting the ability to uncover insight into consumer purchasing habits and behaviour.
While retailers may not yet be able to garner data on individual users, wide adoption - on a scale as witnessed in the US - could see the country’s busiest shopping areas rife with potential for more broadly targeted offers.
It’s a huge opportunity given that 88% of UK retail transactions still happen in-store, according to Deloitte.
The technology also hails a boost for the loyalty market, according Claire Davenport, MD at VoucherCodes.co.uk, adding that in the future consumers will be able to upload offers and discounts from across touchpoints, onto mobile devices so the discount can be automatically applied at the till.
“It's also worth remembering that the NFC capability in the latest iPhone models will not only facilitate payment but will also benefit brands looking to improve their omni-channel experience”, says Davenport.
Apple Pay will potentially enable in-store shoppers will be able to load items into their ‘virtual basket’, check for stock and make use of mobile-enabled loyalty systems.
“In the short-term the Apple Pay experience will be reasonably restricted but as it gathers pace, consumers will be able to access a central wallet, access receipts and invoices in one place and – of course – will be able to pay with a tap of their smartphone”, she concludes.
While Apple Pay certainly packs the potential to shake up the banking and payments industry, Andreas Pouros, co-founder and COO of digital agency Greenlight, still believes there’s a way to go before the technology can truly be touted as ‘contactless’.
“How we pay is fundamentally changing. Consumers are demanding faster, more convenient ways to pay on and offline. While Apple Pay will accelerate that change, it is little more than a footnote in the grand scheme of things.
“If payments are to become truly ‘contactless’ the mobile barrier must be removed entirely. Biometric payments are more likely to gain mass acceptance in the short term and we are already seeing banks experiment with facial, fingerprint, and finger vein recognition.
“The question is will retailers and consumers be as fast to embrace these new ways to pay?”