Shoppers Want Mobile To Replace Cards And Cash, Just Not Their Cards And Cash

Written by Evan Schuman
December 12th, 2012

If you’re looking for more evidence of the bipolar nature of mobile shoppers, look no further. The Harris Poll people have what you need. In what should be called the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) effect, some 66 percent of Americans polled said they expect mobile payments to eventually replace payment cards and even cash—but not their cards and cash.

When asked if they personally want to use mobile as a payment device, the overwhelmingly strongest answer—across literally every demographic group sampled—was the single answer of “not very or not at all interested.”

That’s a wonderful statistical illustration of today’s challenge for mobile payment: A lot of people think it’s a great idea, but they personally have no interest in doing it. It’s great, though, they believe, for everybody else.

When Harris asked these questions of a demographically representative group of 2,383 adults Nov. 14-19, they probed into why this group didn’t want to personally try mobile payment. The top answer, which speaks to the lack of incentives or discounts offered to shoppers to try mobile payments: “Don’t see any reason to switch from cash or payment cards.” That was followed closely by “Don’t want to store sensitive information on my phone” and the always popular “I don’t use a smartphone.” All of those answers were selected by 50-52 percent of those polled.

One big drop down to 40 percent was “Don’t want to transmit sensitive information to the merchant’s device” and then a big drop down (25 percent) to “Worried that my smartphone might lose data service/connection (out of range, underground, etc.) and leave me unable to pay.” Interestingly, that communication fear beat out the more typical power fear, such as when 15 percent of those polled opted for “Worried that my smartphone’s battery will run out and leave me unable to pay.”

Both the connection and the power supply are legitimate fears, stemming from reliance on an electronic device. It’s probably not far off that the connection fear—which could drop without warning—is more of a likely payment problem than a low battery, which at least comes with substantial warning. And extra power packs of various kinds are becoming more popular as mobile devices not only are getting more power-hungry, but they’re seen as more vital.

The Harris results followed the typical and now expected age groups, with older shoppers the most uninterested in mobile (although, as mentioned earlier, literally every age group showed impressive mobile apathy). The poll only interviewed adults so the mobile-fanatics of the younger side of Gen Y (roughly 13-17) were excluded.

What asked about interest in using a smartphone for mobile payments, the 18-35 group (which Harris called Echo Boomers) said they were “not very/not at all interested” 46 percent of the time. That dropped to 40 percent for “Very/Somewhat Interested” and the next highest response was 28 percent for “Not at all interested in using my smartphone instead of cash or cards,” which is a slight rewording of an earlier option. (Note: Not sure of the wisdom of bundling one choice as “Very/Somewhat interested.” Seems that those are two very different answers. Then again, the Echo Boomers category also seems odd, given how little the typical 18-year-old has in common with a 35-year-old.)

Gen X (36-47) and the other groupings (Baby Boomers at 48-66 and Matures at 67-plus) answered the questions similarly, with increasing amounts of resistance as the DOBs got farther away. For example, the 46 percent of Echo Boomers who said they were “not at all interested” in mobile payments increased to 53 percent for GenX, to 62 percent for Baby Boomers and 67 percent for Matures.


2 Comments | Read Shoppers Want Mobile To Replace Cards And Cash, Just Not Their Cards And Cash

  1. Suzy Says:

    Great point that you made, that is the mobile payment industry’s crux right now, how to show itself to be a better alternative than the more traditional methods. I do believe there will be a new standard of incentives rolled out to entice future shoppers into mobile payment over cash. I think someday cash will be obsolete.

  2. SubtleData Says:

    Illustrates the critical importance of showing a tangible benefit to the consumer. The ‘cool factor’ only goes so far. Also interesting that some of the responses infer that consumers are thinking of mobile payment in an either/or scenario as it relates to their credit cards. In the end, it’s an academic discussion until there is a ubiquity of availability for the consumer.


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