Digital customer experience: What's wrong with mobile pay?

"Your kids won't know what money is."— Tim Cook, November 11, 2015

This bold prediction from the Apple boss, along with the new app launches from retailers and banking commercials touting the ease of going cash- and card-less, make it seem like mobile pay is exploding.

But that’s not the reality. Go to one of the ‘million stores’ that accept Apple Pay and you’ll see people pulling out their wallets to faithfully swipe their credit cards as per usual. With a variety of mobile payment options available like Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, PayPal and more, why aren’t they being used by the majority?

The Issues

Retailers Don’t Make It Easy

Go to check out at any major retailer today and you’ll be asked to swipe your card. Sure, employees might have been trained on mobile payments, but the fact of the matter is that those transactions are rare, and majority rules. No one wants to be the person in line who tries to pay with their phone and holds up the line for 30 minutes while an associate tries to figure out how to accept your mobile payment. Retailers aren’t catering to the experience, and as a result it’s failing to catch on.

Additionally, the majority of small businesses don’t even accept mobile pay! According to the CAN Capital Small Business Health Index last year, 87 percent of small businesses are not even accepting mobile payments at the moment. Top that off with the fact that retailers are still making the transition to the infamous chip card. Which, (if you don’t mind a quick sidetrack tangent) is the stupidest rollout EVER. There’s nothing more convenient about the chip, if anything, it takes longer and you still have to sign like a regular swipe? Not to mention the fact that some businesses have the chip and others don’t, so checking out takes longer now because you’re not sure whether to swipe or insert your card!! Okay, I digress.

The technology might be there but the user experience sure isn’t. It might sound convenient to pay via phone but the fact that it’s taking so long to catch on reveals that it’s really not. Let’s address that next.

The Experience Isn’t There

The credit card experience has been around for a while, it has been engrained into culture because it is widely accepted, relatively simple, convenient, intuitive and familiar. The mobile pay experience however, is almost the exact opposite. It’s unfamiliar, not widely accepted and inconvenient.

Other things to consider are barriers to adoption, like consumer attitudes. Consider the perception of the security of a wallet versus the perception of the security of a phone. Yes, you can lose your wallet or have it stolen but when it comes to your phone or computer, things become a little more personal. The wallet serves as more of a purely functional item whereas our phones are more personal, we use them to save all of our photos, make movies, write, store documents, send personal texts and more. We’ve had that experience of losing that in some shape or form, and it brings back painful sentiments. Factor in your financial information as well, and it can seem like this is too much to risk.

Why does this matter? Because to most, whether or not the reasoning is factually sound, adding personal financial information on our devices seems unsafe, risky and setting ourselves up for potential inconvenience. Companies need to take this into account. For example, Facebook deliberately slows down its interface while it performs security checks. In reality, this data is crunched in milliseconds, but it's the perception of a thorough check that matters to the user.

There’s the inconvenience of losing that personal connected device, having that information compromised and then there’s the pure inconvenience of just paying with mobile. Whether that involves the UX of the application itself or the barriers to pay in the real-world that just seem like too much effort to the consumer.

Solution: Build A Mobile Friendly Experience

The Starbucks mobile app isn’t perfect, but when it comes to mobile pay, they’ve rolled it out in a way that uniformly supports and promotes their pay experience to be mobile friendly. Go through a Starbucks drive-thru and you’ll see people reaching their phones out the driver’s window to pay. You’ll see the same thing in store, consumers opening up their app to redeem their free birthday drink or their gold star rewards. What does this do? It creates an environment that is conducive to the cautious and exposes consumers to the application. They become more familiar with the app offering, see other people using it and think “if they can use it, I can use it!”.

Moral of this blog post is that if you’re going to implement a mobile pay application or an in-store retail rewards program, you’re going to need to surround the application with experience support in-store.


  1. Warm them up to the prospect of paying via mobile. Send them a series of simple, personalized e-mails that cover the basics of your application and highlight the fun features. Show them why they should use your app. Continue to show them the benefits, make a social media video series that shows how people use the app in-store. Detail your security efforts or features that protect consumers financial and personal information.
  2. Create a mobile-friendly store experience. Show them it’s an option! Use things like in-store signage, promotions, swag, social media, PR, employee training, etc. to show consumers that it’s available to them. Heck—you could even add a mobile pay checkout line! You’d be surprised at how many people don’t even know about Target’s Cartwheel app (coupons). That’s not the consumers fault, it’s Target’s!
  3. Use user research to continually improve. Hire a team of researchers to see how your application is actually being used. This will give you plenty of insights into the UX of your application and provide opportunities to improve or add.
  4. Be committed. Don’t just roll out a mobile pay or retailer rewards app and let it sit. Invest in a strategy ahead of time that details how you will support consumer adoption, from in-store to at-home. Don’t let your investment go to waste!

Read our guide to UX Strategy For Business to find out more about how to improve the mobile pay experience.










Subscribe to
our Newsletter!

Keep up with new insights from industry leaders on digital transformation, mobile app development, enterprise architecture, and tech innovation topics.