06/01/2015

By Simon Black, CEO, Sage Pay


As 2014 comes to an end, it seems like an apt time to reflect on what an incredible year it’s been for the payments industry. This year alone the payments industry has seen more technological innovation with wider mass adoption of the latest trends than any previous year. It has proven to be a year of massive upheaval for payments technology, which has seen the introduction of wearable payments technology and the rise of mobile and contactless technology. Only by reflecting on this past year can we begin to predict trends for 2015.

Without doubt one of the most prominent payments trends for 2014 has been contactless payments. It has become increasingly popular as consumers demand immediate, frictionless and secure card payments. There are now 45 million contactless cards in circulation and more than 300,000 places where contactless payments can be made across the UK.

What some of us don’t realise is that there has in fact been strong consumer demand for this kind of technology for a while now, but the industry has been slow to react. In the UK, up to 10,000 Londoners a day have been swiping their plastic to pay £1.40 bus fares. However, the Nordics – Iceland in particular – have been at the forefront of contactless technology for some time. There, the buses don't take cash, taxis assume you are paying by card and coffee shops expect you to wave the plastic for a simple Espresso.

So, while the popularity of contactless in the UK has been more popular than ever, there’s still a long way to go before it’s the norm for Britons like it is in other European countries.

Another payments trend to emerge this past year has been mobile payments technology, such as Paym and Zapp. Paym allows its users to pay using just a recipient mobile phone number and in the first month of its launch, over 500,000 phone numbers were registered. Zapp uses near-field communication in mobiles and tablets so that customers simply use their devices to pay instead of a credit/debit card. Big retailers such as Sainburys and key banks such as HSBC, First Direct, Nationwide, Santander and Metro Bank are all now accommodating the use of Zapp in the UK for 2015.

Meanwhile, the expansion of everyone’s digital life, coupled with the spread of the smartphone, means that the use of a mobile or e-wallet to authorise payments will spread. According the Centre for Economic and Business Research, the value of goods and services purchased using a mobile phone will almost triple from £4.8bn last year to £14.2bn in 2018.

Interestingly, the most-talked about mobile payments technology from 2014, Apple Pay, is yet to hit British shores. However, here at Sage Pay, we believe that Apple Pay is exactly the sort of thing that we’ve been waiting for. Although its UK popularity may hinge on its success in America, the chances are it will change the way customers buy products and services. Visa has already announced it will support Apple Pay in the UK next year.

So, what can we expect for 2015?

Aside from seeing the continued spread of contactless payments trends and the impact of high-profile payments tech, like Apple Pay, on the UK, experts have predicted that 2015 is set to be the year for wearable tech. Very recently, we’ve seen the introduction of Barclaycard’s ‘tap and pay’ glove which is a perfect example of technology providers converging consumer demand for a frictionless and streamlined payments experience with the latest technology. The glove, embedded with a small contactless chip that can be linked to a credit or debit card, can be used to pay for transactions of up to £20. As convenient as the concept is, the age old security concerns are still prevalent. More so, what would happen if you were to lose a glove whilst out shopping? What if you paid for something by accident?

With Barclaycard looking to develop this technology into contactless bracelets and watches, coupled with the speed at which contactless and other payments technology has taken off in this last year alone, who knows what the payments industry will look like this time next year. One thing’s for certain however; all merchants need to be looking to adopt new payments types at the checkout, be it Apple Pay or otherwise, in order to be able to satisfy the demands of their customers and keep up with continued technological innovation.