Starbucks’ Mobile Payment Option Tops Apple, Google

When Apple debuted Apple Pay in 2014, it was seen as a breakthrough for mobile payments that would help the technology catch on in the mainstream. While that’s happened to a certain degree, adoption has been slower than some may have predicted. Additionally, according to a new study by eMarketer, the king of mobile payments isn’t Apple, Google, or Samsung — it’s Starbucks.

As Recode reports, the popular coffee chain has more people using its mobile payments solution than any other proximity payment option in the U.S. It’s estimated that, by the end of the year, 23.4 million customers over the age of 14 will have used Starbucks’ mobile payments in the prior six months. That edges out Apple Pay’s 22 million users under the same parameters. Furthermore this trend is expected to continue with Starbucks growing to 29.8 million users by 2022 compared to 27.5 million for Apple Pay.

On the one hand, news that Starbucks is the most-used mobile payments platform shouldn’t be all that surprising considering the coffee chain was an early adopter of the technology and has made it an integral part of their loyalty program. Then again those betting on mobile and proximity payments to take off may be taken aback to learn that the top option is a retailer-specific platform and not a universal one. To that point it’s also worth noting that, while Samsung Pay came in fourth in terms of usage, it actually has the largest reach and acceptance rate of any other solution on the list.

Starbucks also isn’t the only retail chain to offer its own mobile payments option and it seems that others are seeing success in the space too. Specifcally eMarketer notes that Walmart, Dunkin’ Donuts, Target, and McDonald’s have all shown strong adoption numbers. Moreover, back in November, Bloomberg reported that Walmart’s Walmart Pay feature was quickly approaching Apple Pay’s numbers.

These latest eMarketer figures are a bit of a wake-up call for FinTech watchers who have been observing the growth of mobile payments. Although an early start and ease of use are likely reasons for Starbucks success in the proximity payments arena, perhaps their biggest advantage is the loyalty rewards aspect of their offering. On that note, Samsung Pay has also tried to drive usage via rewards offers and recently introduced cashback promotions. If that move didn’t make it clear how important loyalty schemes are to mobile payment adoption, this new report really hammers it home. As a result it will be interesting to see how Apple reacts and what they might be willing to do in order to push Apple Pay to the top.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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