Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

Apple Pay has retail CIOs rethinking how customers pay

Jen A. Miller | Nov. 11, 2014
When Smoothie King decided to change its point of sale system, the company didn't just make alterations to what was currently in more than 600 stores. It scrapped the whole thing.

There are two unknowns here, too: How many people will actually use Apple Pay, and who's going to pay for it. Where Maholic sees an advantage to the service being limited to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Sheldon sees a challenge: "That's small number of retailers and a small number of compatible devices for it to work on."

Then there's the matter of who's going to pay for it, Sheldon says -- whether it's retailers, through the "swipe fees" that that credit card companies charge when customers use a point of sale system, or customers, as a result of a trickle-down effect.

"Apple Pay will add cost," Sheldon says. "Look at the technology infrastructure it takes to make it work. That's not free." Plus, Apple will "get a piece of the pie" for each Apple Pay transaction, though Sheldon says that's not a criticism of the program, as it's in line with the swipe fees.

But Apple Pay isn't the only kid on the block. Rite Aid and CVS have disabled Apple Pay (as well as Google Wallet). Both stores are part of the Merchant Consumer Exchange, which also includes retailers such as Wal-Mart and the Gap, and which expects its CurrentC mobile wallet system to be live next year. That system will use QR codes instead of the near-field communications (NFC) technology of Apple Pay and Google Wallet, and analysts say CurrentC is the industry's way of pushing back against credit card swipe fees.

Does Apple Pay Fill a True Need?

With consumers shaky about the safety of their financial information after a cascade of retail hacks, Sheldon questions whether tokenization will be enough to make people go toward a mobile wallet. Nothing's stuck so far.

Plus, the retail transaction is already pretty simple. "Will Apple be successful where other companies have had a much harder time overcoming 40 years of simplicity?" Sheldon asks. "Using a credit card is super easy and super quick."

That brings us back to Smoothie King. What prompted the chain to change its point of sales systems was better meeting the needs of franchisees: Allowing them to get new stores up and running quickly and operating more than one franchise easily. At the front of the store, though, it's still up to what customers want and what makes their experience better.

"For the last decade, everybody's been trying to get our guests to buy into something to establish a frontrunner," Lapeyrouse says. "Nothing has really resonated with our gusts to any extent that really requires us to do anything. It's all about flexibility. Picking a winner in that race at this point is probably a bad idea."


Previous Page  1  2 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.