Recently I had the opportunity to visit London and I was amazed by the convenience of contactless pay everywhere. For those of you who use Apple Pay with the Apple watch, you might have already experienced some of this. Despite the convenience and habit-forming nature of paying with the Apple watch, here in the USA, the adoption is not widespread and we’re still forced to get our cards out of the wallet. This is where London hits the mark in terms of universal adoption everywhere, thereby unleashing the true power of wearables.
From the moment I landed in London and took the metro to the city, I used my Apple Watch to pay everywhere till I caught my flight back at Heathrow. Though it seems like a minor convenience, it is a major advantage not having to get a card from the vending machine or trying to figure out the ticket price with the exchange rate. In fact, there was a day when I completely forgot to take my wallet with me because I never had a reason to get my wallet. I recall taking the bus and ferry to Greenwich and my Apple Pay worked there too. The simple act of raising your wrist, shaving a few seconds vs. getting cards out of wallet (or even the phone!) is what makes this delightful and habit forming experience. I must admit this meant I wasn’t aware at times how much I was paying for the ride.
They also have contactless pay at restaurants and bars, so no matter where go you can pay from your wearable Apple Watch. This reminded me of Disneyworld in Orlando where they give you a wrist band which acts as universal ticketing for the duration of stay and works seamlessly with rides and restaurants within the park.
Surely as we see more merchants adopting contactless with newer terminals in US, there should be a subsequent uptick in the number of people using wearables for payments. The reason for lack of mobile pay adoption was that there wasn’t any substantial difference between taking phone out of pocket vs. taking the card out of wallet. So consumers stuck to their existing habit of using the card. If you observe closely, most people are either talking on phone while waiting in lines at groceries and hence they would rather take the card out vs. use the phone. Wearables change that dynamic with that one step reduced in payments i.e. removing the card/phone out of pocket. And merchants will benefit from moving to accepting more contactless pay and issuers would benefit from participating in schemes like Apple Pay.