Apple's bid for ubiquity across the US retail industry comes into view
Seeking growth in an likely-to-be flat market, Apple has improved its payments services products with the live launch of Tap To Pay and the introduction of a new virtual "Apple Account Card" in its Wallet app.
Tap to Pay hits Apple Retail in US
Apple's recently announced Tap to Pay feature lets merchants use their iPhone to accept payments from a product or service using Apple Pay, with credit cards or digital wallets. No dongle is required, as the feature makes use of the device's built-in NFC chip and third-party merchants services such as Stripe.
The service isn't quite live yet but is being made available across Apple Retail. Its introduction marks a powerful step forward and will arguably be a big boost to small and medium-sized retailers across the US, who can now expect to use payment services alongside third-party facilitators such as Stripe with their Apple devices.
In conjunction with Apple's Business Essentials service, the company now has a great offer for SMBs - robust devices they like, easy-to-deploy payment services, and device management/integration services (and support) to maintain devices used in stores.
A cynic might argue that these two services will deliver a great deal more benefit to businesses than any Facebook ad, but a critic may not.
What about Apple Account Card?
The jury remains out on the Apple Account Card. Available now in Wallet in the U.S., the virtual card displays the credit balance you might have associated with your Apple ID.
If you have received an App Store or Apple Store gift card, then the balance that would have been added to your Apple ID will now show up in Wallet on your Apple Account Card. You can then use that balance to make purchases at Apple. So long as you are in the US and are running iOS 15.5 or above you should be able to 'Add Apple Account' in Wallet.
Ensuring all your finances are available in Wallet means this new way of accessing Apple ID-related funds makes logical sense. What isn't known (yet) is the extent to which Apple might plan to tie the feature to Apple Pay Cash, Apple Card, and any anticipated move into the "Buy Now, Pay Later" (BNPL) market.
Persistent speculation this year has claimed Apple intends to march into BNPL services. Any such plans may, however, have been put aside in response to current global economic uncertainty, which is prompting smaller players to restructure their business.
Their restructuring could, however, translate into an opportunity for well-heeled Apple to in, with its brand helping overcome consumer resistance to such services.
In conjunction with BNPL, Apple Account Card, Apple Card, and Tap to Pay, the company would then offer an end-to-end set of complementary solutions that put Apple at the heart of the customer journey across US retail. This potential certainly exists, and Apple Business Manager (plus the still evident surge in sales of Apple's products at every part of the enterprise) would once again provide an attractive foundation for small retailers seeking straightforward tools with which to manage this increasingly Apple ecosystem.
The one glaring omission in the plans so far seems to be the US-centric approach Apple has taken in nearly all these services. Account Card, Apple Card and Apple Pay Cash are not yet available in Europe or elsewhere, for example. While impressive, Apple Business Manager isn't yet signing up non-US businesses. And while we've heard speculation the company may offer more of its payment services in Europe, those rumors haven't yet transformed into reality.
What has become reality is that Apple has successfully convinced US consumers (and retailers) to adopt mobile payment services. The company faced some resistance when it first launched Apple Pay, but it now accounts for 92% of two billion US mobile wallet transactions made in 2020. There are also over six million Apple Card users in the US.
The inevitable ubiquity
Earlier this week we looked at Apple's road ahead, citing Apple co-founder Steve Jobs who said:
Taking all the above into account, in the case of payment services, at least, Apple is making a strong bid to become a ubiquitous presence across the US retail industry - and other markets may well follow as the company expands its services business.
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