By Ryan Ahern

Payments are driven heavily by consumer behaviour and preferences, making it only natural that mobile wallets would catch on as smartphones have essentially become extensions of consumers. However, despite the move to contactless payments, mobile wallets have not been as readily adopted by merchants and consumers.

But accepting all forms of electronic payment methods, including magstripe, EMV and near-field communications (NFC)/contactless is only half the battle. Merchants need to make sure customers are aware that they can pay with mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay and that their staff can guide them at the point of sale (POS).

Here are several options for driving mobile wallet adoption.

Pushing wallet use. It is in the merchants’ best interests to drive mobile wallet adoption as it can benefit them immensely, including:

  • Faster speed of transaction. A quick checkout creates efficiencies for merchants as they are able to serve more customers;
  • Stronger security. Mobile wallets use tokenization to replace the cards’ original account numbers, providing enhanced transaction security and assuring customers their card data is safe; and
  • Enhanced brand perception. Acceptance of NFC/contactless payments helps improve consumers’ perception of merchants and their commitment to cutting-edge technology.

Merchants that are active in how they alert their customers to the contactless capabilities have the opportunity to process more transactions each day. But also critically, they would be able to boost how their brands are perceived by their customers. These factors could enhance customer loyalty and attract more clientele, hence generate higher profits, by creating a superior shopping experience while keeping costs down through greater productivity.

In-store signage. A barrier that’s hindered mobile wallet adoption is unclear payment direction at the POS. Consumers want to reach the checkout and minimize any time spent waiting on payments. With POS systems capable of accepting any number of payment forms, this means if it’s not immediately clear what’s accepted, customers will revert to whichever they’re most comfortable with (often a more traditional method like magstripe or cash). If a customer is hung up even momentarily, they could become frustrated and be less likely to attempt to pay using mobile wallets or contactless cards again any time soon.

Implementing in-store signage makes it clear to customers that NFC/contactless transactions are an accepted, important and simple way to spread awareness. Card brands such as Visa offer free POS signage for contactless that merchants can download and affix on payment acceptance devices. Stickers to show mobile wallet acceptance are also available from Apple and Google; cashiers can point to these signs to remind customers they are able to pay using their smartphones. The end goal is to make it so clear to consumers how they can pay via mobile wallets so that merchants don’t risk losing mobile transactions over moments of frustration.

Training staff. Some merchants that are capable of accepting NFC/contactless payments have even lost out on mobile transactions because they’ve neglected to turn those capabilities on at their POS. Employees who don’t know that mobile wallets are accepted and who aren’t trained well enough to walk customers through the payment process contribute further to the problem when they can’t communicate to customers what payments are accepted. This lack of education among merchants can affect the checkout experience for shoppers and discourage mobile payment adoption.

Merchants should train their staff on how to accept mobile wallets at the point of service. They should also be able to articulate where on the payment devices consumers should tap their contactless cards or smartphones. While the terminals or card readers should clearly indicate where to tap the devices or cards, often staff will need to direct the cardholders. This helps ensure a smooth transaction process and encourages shoppers to use this payment method more often.

Merchant employers should also encourage employees to get and use mobile wallets. This way staff becomes well-versed in the technology and be able to help customers to pay with this method.

It is up to the merchants

Enabling NFC/contactless payments is just the beginning of the journey for merchants. By motivating customers to use mobile wallets, they are not only enhancing the checkout experience, but they are also creating efficiencies within their businesses.

Merchants’ success hinges on being able to evolve at the pace of their customers’ changes preferences. The technology is already largely in place for mobile payment adoption to grow exponentially in North America. But it is up to merchants to close the gap between the payments technology they offer and the payment method their customer reaches for first at the point of sale.

Ryan Ahern is payments solution manager, Ingenico Group North America (

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