Contactless payments growth slow in UK

16 January 2012

LONDON: Awareness and uptake levels of contactless payments remain low in the UK, suggesting brands and retailers must encourage greater use of this new technology.

YouGov, the research firm, surveyed 2,927 adults, and found just 12% thought they already owned a card facilitating contactless payments.

According to estimates from the UK Cards Association, the industry body, 19.6m of these cards are now in circulation, roughly equivalent to one for every three members of the country's population.

The overall trend of uncertainty extended to actual providers, as 67% of YouGov's sample was not sure which banks offered this form of payment.

Barclays, and its Barclaycard brand, led the charts among contactless card owners, two-thirds of which knew about the company's products in this area, aided by a high-profile ad campaign.

Moreover, Barclays had the highest market share in the contactless card category, boasting 71% of current customers, dropping to 10% for MBNA and 5% for LloydsTSB.

McDonald's the fast food restaurant chain, has rolled out "wave and pay" terminals in its UK branches, but a modest 8% of all contributors and 13% of contactless card owners were aware of this fact.

Russell Feldman, associate director in YouGov's technology and telecom's team, said: "As expected, more and more retailers are hopping on-board the contactless bus with McDonalds and Starbucks being some of the bigger names.

"However, the vast majority of retailers do not offer the technology and could potentially be missing out on reducing queue times and gaining more foot fall - something retailers desperately need in the current climate."

To date, 80% of people in possession of contactless cards had never used them to buy items in this way, compared with 5% doing so more than once a week.

At present, the most popular venues for using this payment method are fast food restaurants on 27% and coffee shops on 26%, the same score as sandwich and grocery outlets.

Just under three-quarters of the panel, or 74%, spent up to £10 per transaction, while only 18% spend between £10 and £15, with the latter figure having declined from 34% in May 2011.

Among contactless card owners not using this payment technique, 59% hoped to do so in the future, citing advantages such as convenience on 41% and speed on 26%. Obstacles included a lack of retailer uptake and concerns over security.

Data sourced from YouGov; additional content by Warc staff