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7 reasons mobile payments still aren't mainstream

James A. Martin | June 8, 2016
Though mobile payments and wallets are increasingly popular, they're still nowhere near mainstream. A set of experts and finance-industry watchers weigh in on what's holding mobile payments back, as well what will need to happen for the systems to hit the big time.

EMV terminals may actually add friction to the current mobile payment process. "Trader Joe's and Whole Foods were among the major retailers that switched on EMV last week, which instantly made the quick Apple Pay experience decidedly less so," wrote Evan Shuman, founding editor of retail tech site StorefrontBacktalk, in a May blog post.

"Instead of the shopper being done when Apple Pay confirmed all that it needed to confirm … a series of new messages pop out on the POS screen," Shuman wrote. "The first message displays — again — the amount of the purchase and asks that the shopper confirm acceptance of that amount. The problem is that the shopper already saw that amount before paying with Apple Pay … the second message insists on a signature. Note that this shopper has already provided a finger scan — which is a few billion orders of magnitude more secure than a signature — so it's a rather pointless request."

Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and other secure NFC payment systems "are going to have their customer experiences seriously degraded because of EMV rules and visibility limits within today's payments systems," according to Shuman. "It's entirely possible that future versions of NFC wallets may be able to do a better job at shouting at POS systems what they are and what they are doing, but that doesn't help shoppers (or retailers) today." 

Retail-specific mobile payment systems, such as Walmart Pay and Target Pay, may not experience the same issues, because they often control the programming of their POS systems, according to Shuman. "You can safely bet that a Walmart POS will know darn well when it's communicating with Walmart Pay," he wrote.

5. Modern mobile payment experience is inconsistent 

Consumers today have many mobile payment and wallet options, including Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, Visa Checkout, Walmart Pay, and bank-branded mobile wallets from Wells Fargo and Chase.

This diversity of offerings slows the adoption of mobile payments, according to Steve Gilde, global payments executive at IR, a company that provides performance management software for IT infrastructure, payments, and communications. Consumers are confused by it all, and they just want payment methods that are simple, easy-to-use, ubiquitous, and that always works, he says. "It's hard for any one mobile wallet provider to say they deliver that today."

"What the consumer wants instead [of the confusing array of mobile payments] … is a simplified mobile commerce experience," wrote Karen L. Webster, CEO of, a website that covers digital payments and ecommerce, in a recent blog post.

Consumers want "an account that's smart enough to keep track of all of their loyalty memberships, coupons, promo codes, and to apply those discounts automatically to their purchase at checkout — without the friction that gets in the way of actually checking out," Webster wrote.


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