Despite the relentless onslaught of news about mobile payment initiatives — some on the American Banker staff are suffering from mobile payment fatigue and fear that you, readers, are too — there’s very little paying by phone going on, according to a just-released Harris poll.
The survey of 2,056 adults found that only 5% of Americans have scanned their phone for admission to a movie or as an airline ticket, and fewer say they have done so to pay for clothing or electronics (3%), admission to a concert, live theater or performance (3%), to pay for a convenience item such as coffee (3%) or something else (7%). Two in five say they have never scanned their mobile or smart phone for any reason (40%) and slightly more say they do not have a mobile or smart phone with this capability (45%). Although consumers aged 18-35 (whom Harris calls Echo Boomers), are most likely to have scanned their phone for all of the items listed, even they are not doing this at high rates (between 5% and 10% for each item). The survey was conducted online between February 6 and 13.
But the levels of comfort with nascent mobile payment technologies are much higher. Just under half of respondents (47%) say they are comfortable using a mobile scan as an admission ticket to movies, concerts or live theater performances, while 38% are not comfortable with it — 25% are not at all comfortable; 15% are not sure. About the same number of people are comfortable (41%) and not comfortable (43%) using a mobile scan as an airline, train or other transportation ticket; 15% are again, not sure.
Slightly fewer are comfortable using a mobile app that would allow them to make purchases at a retailer or company as they would with a gift card (39%) while 47% are not comfortable with this and 14% are not sure.
Interestingly for banks getting into mobile payments, the Americans surveyed were more uneasy about using a mobile phone like a credit card. Sixty-three percent are not comfortable with the idea of using a mobile app that would store credit card information, letting them make purchases at a retailer or company as they would with a credit card; 45% are not at all comfortable. Only one quarter (24%) of Americans are comfortable with this, and 13% are not sure.
Overall, younger adults are more comfortable with mobile payments than older ones and men are more comfortable than women.
Harris asked people if they thought information stored on mobile phones will eclipse cash payments for a majority of purchases. While very few people think that will happen within the next year (3%), over one in ten think it will happen in one to less than three years (13%) and 18% think it will happen between three and five years. One in five (21%) say it will happen in five to less than 10 years and 15% say it will happen in 10 years or more; 30% say it will never happen. There are only slight differences in opinion by age, although women think that this will happen in less than 3 years significantly more than men do (20% versus 13%). Men, on the other hand, are more likely to say it will happen in 10 years or more (17% versus 12%).
It’s tempting to look at research like this and say mobile payments don’t matter. However, too many well-run technology and financial services companies are working on this and there’s too much momentum behind them for these initiatives to fizzle out. Most likely, within the next year mobile payments will reach a tipping point where consumers recognize the convenience of them and start adopting in droves.