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At Staples, Apple Pay is a hit in app, but not in stores

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Staples was an early retailer to adopt Apple Pay, announcing its support of the digital payment technology even before it launched.

While the retailer has seen some adoption in stores, its experience with Apple Pay in its iOS app is much more impressive.

"Right now it's the number one payment method for us in our iOS apps," said Prat Vemana, vice president of mobile commerce for Staples, speaking during a panel discussion hosted by Chetan Sharma Consulting in Seattle on Tuesday. Vemana said that 30 percent of purchases made in the Staples iOS apps use Apple Pay.

Plus, it turns out that many of those buyers are first time customers for Staples. In the early days of the launch, 65 percent of transactions using Apple Pay in the Staples app were by first time Staples customers, he said.

"Apple Pay has been one of the most successful implementations when it comes to payments," he said.

Vemana didn't have statistics for Apple Pay being used by people in stores to make purchases at the register, but he said it hasn't taken off quite so quickly there. A "healthy" number of people have used it in stores but Apple Pay isn't among the top three payment types in stores, he said. "On mobile it overtook everything else so I think it will be a slower adoption in stores," he said.

He's hopeful that a similar kind of successful mobile payment platform will emerge for Android. While Google does offer Google Wallet, it hasn't proved as popular as Apple Pay. In fact, while Staples users are pretty evenly split between Android and Apple devices, 70 percent of revenue from mobile purchasing comes from Apple users, Vemana said. "The question is, is it demographic? What is it about Android that those users are hesitant about payments? The question is still open," he said.

The early successes of Apple Pay, compared to a number of past mobile payment services that have fizzled, seems to indicate that people want to make mobile payments if all the pieces are in place just right. If you were to look at the sheer number of Apple Pay users, it's quite small compared to the overall number of mobile users, Sebastien Taveau, chief developer evangelist for MasterCard noted. If other platforms are to take off, they'll need to figure out just what Apple Pay does right. "What is the behavior that needs to change or what is the incentive that made Apple Pay users embrace the technology? There is nothing really innovative and new [about Apple Pay] except for combining a bunch of technology and making it work for users," he said.

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