Mobile & Online Payments

Apple Pay and the problem with retail management

Shaun Weston considers the lack of knowledge at retail level when it comes to payments mechanisms, highlighted by the launch of Apple Pay in the UK. Image: Unsplash
Written by Shaun Weston

Shaun Weston considers the lack of knowledge at retail level when it comes to payment mechanisms, highlighted by the launch of Apple Pay in the UK.

It’s hard to complain about the state of the financial industry in the UK when it seems to be trying its best to stay ahead of the technological curve. Compare the UK, for instance, with other countries when it comes to something like contactless payments – it’s miles ahead. Yet, it seems there are still areas that need work, and Apple Pay has highlighted this.

For a moment, forget that it’s Apple. There are other companies in the contactless/mobile payments arena, and all of them are trying to make things convenient for us. Because Apple is big and strong, it’s driving this sector forwards, and many other parties will benefit.

Twitter is awash with anger, bemusement, ignorance and petty cynicism when it comes to talking about the future of the payments industry, as if we should all be using gold coins and burying them in our back yards (ploughed, no doubt, by shire horses). Other social networks scream blue murder at the slightest detail, such as HSBC being not quite so ready on Apple Pay launch day. The flip side of the coin is that a bunch of banks are most definitely ready, and ‘launch partner’ retailers are also ready for you to spend your money.

What many retailers don’t know is that they may be ready for Apple Pay simply by virtue of offering a contactless payment system
What many retailers don’t know is that, despite not being a ‘launch partner’, they may be ready for Apple Pay simply by virtue of offering a contactless payment system. Digital Spy reports that Apple Pay can be used anywhere that accepts contactless cards, a statement backed up by Huw Davies, MasterCard’s head of emerging payments for UK & Ireland.

“As far as the consumer or merchant is concerned, this is just like any other contactless card transaction,” he said. “For the merchant, if they have a contactless terminal, Apple Pay works. It’s using all of the same infrastructure that’s in place, understood, and well used.”

This is knowledge that has obviously bypassed many retailers, including the mighty Tesco. TechRadar staff tried using Apple Pay in a Paddington Tesco store. It worked, but staff members seemed confused and perhaps a little suspicious of what was going on. It’s a real shame that, despite the technology being ready, and Apple Pay launching in its first location outside of the US, and people having talked about it for what seems like years, many retailers are unprepared. Staff members are untrained, and at the very least, not briefed on what’s going on in the wider world of retail. Their managers haven’t told them what’s going on. Is it because the managers don’t know what’s going on? Those store managers are usually briefed by regional managers, who perhaps also don’t know what’s going on. Those regional managers are usually supervised by even more managers, who, quite frankly, don’t appear to be managing very much if this Tesco anecdote is anything to go by.

This week, Apple Pay has launched a product in the UK to accompany the likes of PayPal, Samsung Pay, Google Wallet, and so on. They make it so that you don’t have to carry your cards with you all of the time, and those cards won’t wear out so much because you have an alternative method of payment. The Apple Pay option is more secure, because it uses your own fingerprint in order to function – no details are passed to the retailer, nor Apple, as the chip inside your phone holds the details.

If you’ve ever downloaded and used the Starbucks app, you will know how to use Apple Pay and all of the other options. It’s easy. Let’s brush past the initial difficulties and embrace change while the financial industry is ripe for changing, and let’s remind our friends and colleagues in retail that their managers are not doing enough to keep them abreast of these changing times.

About the author

Shaun Weston

Shaun Weston is Senior Editor of BankNXT and Backbase, and a creative content provider specialising in digital projects, marketing and social media. He has worked with businesses that focus on editorial strategy for online or print, consumer or B2B, and his work includes The Economist, SAS, Oracle, Future Publishing, and Backbase.

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