With swarms of shoppers poised to descend on retailers on Black Friday, surveys suggests consumers are interested in buying products with mobile pay options at brick-and-mortar stores.
But small retailers in Maryland and elsewhere say they are wary of various new payment methods that are available or coming online soon.
Various types of mobile pay options, such as Google Wallet, have been available for some time. But popular interest surged earlier this year when technology giant Apple announced the Apple Pay option on its iPhone 6/6+, the latest models of the popular smartphone.
Mobile payment methods use what’s called Near Field Communications antennas on mobile devices to pay for products at terminals installed at retail stores. Each of the methods for payment have a variety of security features unique to the product.
“I mean this whole world is changing,” said Patrick Donoho, president of the Maryland Retailers Association.
Donoho said the major concern for smaller local retailers is cost. Because mobile payment technology is in its infancy, and with the coming rollout of chip-and-PIN security for credit cards, it’s difficult for smaller businesses to invest in one of the new payment technologies. There’s also concern about what the transaction costs will be for these new mobile payment methods.
Joe Traill, owner of Joe’s Bike Shop in Mount Washington and Fells Point, described himself as a Luddite and joked about missing the days when it was a simple matter of paying for products with cash. He said that so far he hasn’t seen the need to use mobile payment devices simply because there hasn’t been the demand.
“My impression would be that larger retailers that see a wider variety of consumer would feel more of a pressure to do it than a smaller specialty retailer. I’d like to think that in Baltimore we’re somewhat unique, and therefore the decision to buy here isn’t going to be made on whether or not [customers] can use their phones to pay,” Traill said.
Although these mobile transactions currently make up less than 1 percent of purchases, there are indications that mobile pay options are poised to grow.
Retale, a company that pulls print retail circulators into its app, released a survey last week of 1,000 people that reported only 36 percent of customers had used mobile payment methods. But three out of the five people surveyed said they would use mobile payment if it was available.
Nonetheless, the survey also found that there were lingering concerns about using mobile pay. The biggest was data security, theft or loss of smartphone and worries about keeping track of spending. Survey results also showed room for brand recognition to increase for in-store mobile payment methods, with 51 percent of respondents identifying PayPal as the service they’ll most likely use, 21 percent saying their bank’s mobile pay app and 10 percent responding they’d most likely use Apple Pay.
Currently, Apple Pay is available at 42 large retailers such as Whole Foods, McDonalds and Foot Locker with a handful more coming on board later in the year, according to Apple’s website.
But there are some large retailers that are not embracing the technology. A consortium of retailers called the Merchant Customer Exchange, which includes businesses such as 7-Eleven, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart, are developing their own mobile payment option in hopes of cutting out fees charged by credit card companies.
As larger retailers struggle to figure out mobile payments small business owners like Traill are hoping to keep transactions simple for the time being.
“I’m so far behind as it is. I don’t even have a Facebook account,” Traill said.