NFC mobile payments ‘shake off the novelty tag’ in the UK

British consumers used their mobile phones to spend more than £370m (US$477m) in stores equipped with contactless payments terminals during the first half of 2017, an increase of 336% on the amount spent during the first half of 2016, transaction data analysis conducted by payments processor Worldpay has found.

Worldpay logoThe overall share of transactions conducted using an NFC mobile phone has almost doubled during the first half of the year, from 1.18% at the end of 2016 to 2.04% in June 2017, Worldpay says.

Monthly spending on mobile devices has risen by 57% in the past six months, from £46m (US$59m) in January 2017 to £74m (US$95m) in June 2017.

Supermarkets and grocery stores account for 55% of the total spent so far using an NFC mobile phone this year. Londoners spend the most on their mobiles, “but the proportion of transactions concentrated around the capital has reduced from 32% at the end of 2016, to 28% in 2017, as adoption becomes more widespread across the UK,” Worldpay says.

While the use of mobile devices to make in-store payments has been growing steadily since the UK launch of Apple Pay in 2015, Worldpay adds “it is only really in the past 12 months that the technology has begun to gain widespread acceptance beyond ‘early adopters’, further fuelled by the launch of Android Pay in 2016 and Samsung Pay earlier this year.”

Spending on all forms of contactless systems now accounts for 38% of all non-cash transactions in the UK, Worldpay’s data also shows, with the total contactless spend in 2017 reaching £9bn (US$11.59bn) in the period to the end of June, up from a total contactless spend of £10bn (US$12.88bn) in the whole of 2016.

“Mobile spending has shaken off the novelty tag, and is breaking its own spending records virtually every month,” says James Frost, Worldpay’s UK CMO. “Granted there’s still some way to go before we start cutting up our cards and chucking away our wallets, but it’s easy to see why everyone from start-ups to tech giants is eager to have a stake in the technology.”

“The introduction of the Oyster Card back in 2003 gave Londoners a bit of a head-start when it comes to tapping to pay, but the intervening 14 years might as well be a century when it comes to how far the payments landscape has evolved.

“We’re now seeing pockets of incredible growth in mobile adoption right across the country with the South East of England accounting for 15% of total spend and the North West making up 10%.

“Mobile is already emerging as the dominant payment channel for ecommerce. It’s very difficult to argue against it doing the same for in-store payments; and at a far faster rate than many would imagine.”

  • Willam Hugh Murray, CISSP

    Keep in mind that mobile payments are novel technology, less than three years old, growing faster in the UK than in the US because of contactless cards. The growth rate, while not sustainable, is more important than the absolute numbers at this point.