3 (billion) is the magic number for contactless

By Tristan Kirchner, Executive Director (Product Management) • Visa Europe

And Nick Mackie, Head of Chip and Contactless for Europe • Visa

May 11, 2016

Last July we celebrated a major milestone for contactless technology: surpassing 1 billion “touch to pay” transactions made in a 12-month period for the first time. Momentum has continued ever since, meaning today we can announce another bold figure:

In the year to 30 April, 3 billion contactless transactions were made across Europe on Visa cards and payment-enabled devices. The leap since last April has been significant, growing from 143 million transactions in April 2015 to 360 million in April 2016 – that’s nearly 140 contactless transactions per second at the current rate, accounting for 1-in-5 Visa-processed face-to-face payments in the region. As consumers have become more comfortable using contactless for their “everyday spending”, the average transaction values have crept up 12% from €12.29 last April to €13.83 today.

As with any success story though, the real value is understanding what’s contributed to it – and what those factors suggest for the future direction of travel. In the case of the surge to 3 billion, there are five key drivers.

3 (billion) is the magic number for contactless

Firstly, appetite has grown among Europe’s largest merchants. This is especially the case with supermarkets. Carrefour, Lidl, Tesco and Poland’s Biedronka have all introduced or scaled up contactless in their stores. In the case of the latter, it has taken less than a year for Biedronka to move from being a cash-only chain to seeing over 50% of its transactions made using contactless. Average basket sizes are a strong fit for contactless spending, as are automated checkouts, which are built for speed. Couple these with the increase in convenience-style stores built for daily visits and it’s easy to see why usage has grown.

Secondly, public transport. Transport for London’s adoption of contactless continues to be a huge success story, having passed 400m contactless journeys in less than 20 months. It was the fastest growing contactless merchant in Europe in 2015 and today, over 1 million Visa contactless journeys are made every weekday on TfL services. Others are replicating its success with their own initiatives. In Poland for example customers can buy tickets on Warsaw and Wroclaw’s public transport networks using contactless. Like supermarkets, riding on public transport is a regular occurrence, helping contactless usage become ingrained and creating a halo affect that encourages contactless usage in other venues.

Third, new and different merchants are adopting the technology, driven by the growth in mobile point-of-sale (“mPOS”) terminals. The number of Visa transactions from these terminals, which are favoured by smaller “new-to-cards” merchants as well as seasonal operators (street vendors or Christmas markets for example),is on-track to see 5x growth in FY16, opening up contactless to whole new types of merchants and consumer environment.

Fourth, it’s impossible to ignore the growing adoption of mobile NFC payments. Apple Pay launched into Europe last year, offering a different way to pay via contactless. In addition, 31 European banks in 8 countries have introduced cloud-based mobile payment solutions for their customers or have programmes in development. Looking ahead, Android Pay’s expansion into Europe will boost this momentum, broadening the ubiquity and use of contactless further.

That leads on to the final driver for growth: wearables. Similar to mobile payment, wearables like Apple Watch, Barclaycard’s bPay or CaixaBank’s Pulsera are providing alternative methods for contactless payment, creating entirely new ways make fast and secure everyday payments, always in arm’s reach.

Greater adoption by large merchants coupled with relevant technology for smaller ones, investment in alternative ways to pay rooted in contactless technology, and behavioural change driven by regular usage in familiar environments — these are the reasons why we stand at 3 billion transactions and counting today. With mobile-based payment predicted to double by 2020, all Visa point-of-sale terminals in Europe set to accept contactless payments by the same year, and more merchants embracing contactless every week, this near-vertical growth is set to continue, paving the way for the future – a future that Visa proudly continues to lead.

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