Will m-payments replace cash? Survey provides mixed answer.

Dec. 13, 2012

Harris Interactive has released a new poll gauging Americans' attitudes toward mobile payments and it's a glass half-empty/half-full report.

For those waiting for consumers to adopt mobile payments, the poll has some good news. According to the report, two-thirds (66 percent) believe smartphones will eventually replace payment cards. A similar percentage (61 percent) believe smartphones spell the eventual end of cash as well.

That's the glass half full perspective for mobile payment boosters.

But the doubters can find some support for their position in the survey as well. When asked how long the transition to mobile payments will take, the majority (68 percent) of those very same consumers who predicted the death of plastic and cash said the switch is still more than five years away.

Lack of motivation?

Perhaps the predictions of slow adoption have something to do with a general lack of interest shown by consumers in the idea of paying by phone. Only one-quarter (27 percent) of respondents to the Harris poll reported an overall interest in using their smartphones to pay for in-person purchases.

Smartphone ownership may play a big part in spurring mobile payment interest. Of those who own smartphones, nearly half (44 percent) said they are interested in paying for purchases with their phones. Additionally, among certain demographics, especially "echo boomers" (ages 18–35) and Gen-Xers (ages 36–47), the interest, regardless of phone type, is much higher. Of echo boomers, 40 percent said they're interested in paying for in-person purchases with their phones; nearly one third (34 percent) of Gen-Xers said the same.

Not surprisingly, men showed more interest in paying for purchases with their phones, 32 percent compared to 22 percent of women. Respondents with kids were also more interested in mobile payments than those without. More than one-third (38 percent) of respondents from households with children said they were interested in paying with a phone while only 22 percent from households without children expressed an interest in mobile payments.

Respondents cited several reasons for their lack of interest, the biggest being concerns over security. Of respondents who said they aren't particularly interested in mobile payments, 51 percent said storing sensitive information on their devices is an issue, with 40 percent reporting that they worry about transmitting personal information to a merchant device. More than half (52 percent) said they just don't see a benefit to mobile payments over cash or plastic, and half (50 percent) said they don't even own a smartphone.

It should be noted that interest in "mobile payments" increased slightly when the subject turned to "digital wallets." In other words, when respondents were asked about replacing their wallets with a smartphone to make payments and store identification and loyalty cards, 30 percent said they would be much more or somewhat more interested.

Consumers more interested than they think?

While apathy may be the takeaway for mobile payment naysayers, the poll actually might have more good news for the mobile payment market. When asking about mobile payments, the Harris poll specifically addressed contactless payments made by smartphones. The question posed to respondents was "How interested are you in being able to use your smartphone to process in-person payments via tapping a special receiver." But when asking about consumers' experience with other forms of mobile payment transactions, it turns out many consumers, especially those who own smartphones, are already using them.

Nearly one-third (29 percent) of smartphone users are already using a mobile app of some kind to redeem offers at stores or restaurants. (That number goes to 40 percent when including smartphone users who said they had seen such a transaction firsthand.) And 23 percent of smartphone owners said they had used a mobile point of sale device such as Square to make a purchase.

In summarizing its findings, Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager, said the issue facing mobile payments seems to be the perceived lack of a compelling value among consumers.

"Finding such a silver bullet which gives Americans a reason to change how they pay will depend not only on bringing new ideas to the table simply because technology enables them — but paying attention to how Americans pay now and looking for a need that, once again, they may not even know is there," Shannon-Missal said.

The Harris poll was conducted online from November 14–19 and surveyed 2,383 adults.

For more stories like this, visit the trends/statistics research center.

Topics: Mobile Payments , Mobile Retail , Payments

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