Wanting to avoid having to purchase and install NFC-friendly card readers at its stations, ExxonMobil has opted to use ApplePay but only as an in-app method, from within the petro company’s own app.
Although it might make short-term economic sense from ExxonMobil’s perspective, it may be a big hit with over the long-term and it could damage some consumer perceptions of NFC payment convenience. The service will be offered initially at 6,000 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in 46 states, with an additional 2,000 stores slated to join by this summer.
ApplePay has several solid user-experience advantages and cashiers at retailers that accept a lot of ApplePay transactions (think Whole Foods, TraderJoe’s or McDonald’s) typically find it the fastest payment experience.
Why? A few reasons:
- An NFC transaction does not need a network connection so it is immune to the problems from stores that have weak cellular signals.
- An ApplePay transaction does not require that any app be launched. If a user simply holds the phone near the payment mechanism, it automatically registers the charge. A quick finger scan and the transaction is complete.
The whole point of ApplePay is a faster and easier payments experience. With the in-app in-store approach that ExxonMobil is launching, if the area has weak or no wireless signal, it won’t work. Secondly, the user must first locate and launch the ExxonMobil app. The app then tries to use GPS to identify the station. Assuming that works, the customer must then identify the pump number. The customer must then input the pump number. The authentication happens afterwards.
Bear in mind that some states—New Jersey and Oregon, for the moment—ban self-service. That means that most customers are used to staying in their cars as a service attendant pumps their gas. Customers will often have to exit their vehicle to identify the pump number (assuming they didn’t think to ask the attendant), which may not be fun during a rain or snowstorm.
It’s understandable why ExxonMobil opted for this approach, but it’s delivering a seriously sub-optimal user experience and therefore diminishing the ApplePay brand, along with other NFC mobile wallets.