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Apple Pay’s Mac move: Less friction? No, but slightly less fraud

Evan Schuman | June 22, 2016
Shoppers won’t have to enter their credit card details — but the number of times it will be truly useful is small.

It was one sentence buried near the end of a long announcement from Apple about iOS 10, but it was perhaps one of the most interesting. “Apple Pay can now be used to make easy, secure, and private purchases on participating websites using Safari, in addition to paying in-stores and within apps.”

What this means is that desktops and laptops made by Apple will eventually (once developers take advantage of this capability, in the fourth quarter) be able to make Apple Pay purchases at participating e-commerce sites. 

The ultimate significance of this to the world of e-commerce requires a trip into the details. It is a yin-yang look at reducing friction (it will decrease friction for some users for some purchases, increase it for others) and making e-commerce more secure.

On the “this could be an especially big deal” side are the retailers that have thus far agreed to participate, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Pizza Hut, Saks Fifth Avenue, ToysRUs, Kohl’s, Coach, Gamestop and Overstock.com.

But as we delve into how this works, the real problem emerges. For this to work, three elements have to be in place: an e-commerce site that installs the software on its servers, a user running Apple hardware and the Apple browser, and more Apple hardware connected to that first piece of Apple hardware. This is where the “this will make e-commerce more frictionless” argument starts to fall apart. 

Let’s delve into that third element, the iOS device that needs to connected to the Apple desktop/laptop. First, it needs to be a relatively newer Apple device so that it has the finger-scanning mechanism. That means newer iPhones and Apple Watches. Hold on. What about iPads? Apparently, they don’t count.

Although Apple Pay works in Safari on an iPad, it won’t be allowed into this desktop deal. Why not? Apple didn’t consider the user case to be there because it figured that someone with an iPad would use that instead of a desktop, not next to it.

That is undoubtedly true, but why make this deal more complicated by allowing only some Apple Pay-supporting devices and not others? 

Let’s get to the core friction argument. The essence of the “less friction” argument is that shoppers will be able to surf to, let’s say, Abercrombie & Fitch and make a purchase and simply authenticate with a split-second touch of a finger, instead of pulling out a payment card and entering in all of those numbers.

That’s a fair argument. But it forces the question, “How often will that actually happen?” 

We need to split all shoppers into two categories: those visiting a site they have visited before, and those visiting a site that they have never visited before.

 

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