What Can Apple Learn from Parking?

Recently, I was standing in the checkout line at a local grocery store and couldn’t help but overhear a customer in the next lane saying that he was told he could use Apple Pay to make his purchases. The cashier was not familiar with Apple Pay and contacted a manager for further assistance. The manager, too, had no clue what the guy was talking about.

“You want to use Apple Pay? Is that some sort of special card?” the manager asked.

In frustration, the customer said “just forget about it” and pulled out his credit card instead.

The entire exchange, including the first and second payment attempts, questions and time waiting for the manager, wasted about five minutes and further backed up that checkout line, creating further frustration, eye rolling and impatience.

This exchange begged the question: Are we trying too hard to force a technology? What problem are we actually solving by introducing these types of payment methods like Apple Pay or Google Wallet?

Granted, I recognize that these options provide better security protection, but that only works if everyone accepts the payment platform, which clearly is not the case. If you continue to use your credit card for other day-to-day payments, you will remain exposed to risk. Likewise, Apple has to prove that your information is secure. Unfortunately, you may remember iCloud accounts getting hacked recently, which led to many celebrity photos being leaked.

It’s simply too easy to pull out a credit card and swipe it at the kiosk. The motion is almost second nature to most of us – it’s as easy as tapping your phone and verifying payment. That means that more people need an incentive, loyalty program or similar to hook to decide to use another payment option.

How parking lanes relate to payment technology

Similar to parking lanes, the industry needs to better review what technology is being added to in-lane payment methods. Pulling an entry ticket at a parking garage is easy and familiar. I have talked with operators that have adopted technology that attempts to introduce mobile payment at gated facilities by getting users to download an app where they can scan or enter a code on entry. Just like the customer witnessed in the checkout lane, execution of technology at your facility may fall short or not work at all. Not only is this method uncommon at the moment, but could also create confusion, inefficiency and frustration for someone who just wants to park a car.

If you are going to introduce a new process or technology to any environment, make sure you ask: What problem am I solving? And, of course, make sure you have a good answer. It’s also important to determine the best time and place to introduce the new technology or process.

The customer at the grocery store was able to buy apples, but not with Apple Pay. He left exasperated with both the store and the technology. Before you take the next step in payment technology, take the time to examine needs, timing and the customer experience to avoid unintended consequences.