May 22, 2018 - Technology

Starbucks likely to keep mobile payments lead over Google, Apple


The winner of the in-store mobile payments race may surprise you: While Apple, Google and Samsung are all seen posting healthy growth over the next few years, eMarketer predicts that Starbucks will maintain its lead in terms of number of users through 2022.

Reproduced from eMarketer; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from eMarketer; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: An increasing share of in-store spending will be done using mobile payments. The question is whose mobile payment technology will win the day.

Why Starbucks is winning: We asked eMarketer analyst Cindy Liu why players like Apple Pay and Google Pay aren't seen taking the lead, since they cover so many merchants.

  • She said that, while Apple Pay and Google Pay are more widely accepted at retailers, consumer adoption of the apps has been "lackluster" as consumers are not net convinced of the apps' value.
  • But the value proposition of the Starbucks app is clear — it allows customers to save money and rack up points, and the app is more habitual with users that coffee drinkers that tend to be repeat customers.
"Until we can see a clear shift in consumers accepting Apple Pay or Google Pay, we believe Starbucks will remain in the lead."
— Cindy Liu, eMarketer Forecasting Analyst

My thought bubble: It's worth noting that eMarketer is measuring user numbers, not dollar figures. On that basis, Apple and Google probably will grow much higher over time.

Other projections:

  • The number of U.S. proximity mobile payment users will grow 14.5% this year to reach 55.0 million.
  • In 2018, for the first time, more than 25% of US smartphone users ages 14 and older will make a proximity mobile payment at least once every six months.
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