Tapping, Swiping and Hovering: How Londoners are Paying the Bill

June 04, 2018 - 8 minute read

At the beginning of 2018, Google absorbed Android Pay into the Google Pay brand.

As such, Android mobile phone users can now use the Google Pay app to pay for purchases in stores up and down the country, using just their phone. They join Apple users, and a large amount of credit and debit card holders, in being able to pay for purchases in a new way: completely contactless.

But we wanted to investigate Londoners in particular. Where do they shop? And wherever they’re shopping, how do they pay for the things they buy?

Londoners are often the guinea pigs for brands, with payment apps and contactless payment methods being no exception to this rule. London was the first city in the UK to scrap cash payments for public transport in favour of ‘easing’ - the process using contactless cards, payment apps and the Oyster system.

London is also the first place in the UK where you can pay a busker using your contactless card or app. And the value and ease of smartphone-run payment systems like iZettle has allowed for a street market revolution on London’s streets.

It’s becoming less and less necessary for Londoners to carry cash with them, but is it becoming any less common to have a pocket full of change, just in case?  

We look at how modern payment technologies, most notably payment apps including Google Pay and Apple Pay, are changing the way Londoners pay for in-store purchases. Also the drivers and barriers to using payment apps, adoption levels and the London boroughs where consumers are swiping and tapping their money away.


Old habits die hard

We surveyed 500 London-based consumers, aged 18-100, in May 2018.

In doing so, we discovered that 71% of Londoners still use cash to pay for their in-store purchases. Cash was the most popular response, just pipping contactless debit and credit cards with 70% of consumers choosing this as another way they regularly pay for items.

The clear conclusion is that Londoners are not sold on one single payment method, with each respondent identifying on average 2.4 payment methods used.


Using a phone app, such as Google Pay and Apple Pay, to make in-store payments was ranked as the 4th most common method.

But what we do, and what we want to do, are vastly different. When we consider the payment methods people prefer to use, phone apps jump to second place.


Consumers still feel it imperative to carry cash with them to make purchases, or are simply stuck in the habit of doing so, considering that only 19% of Londoners actually want to be lugging around cash.

A much larger majority would rather use their contactless debit or credit card to make transactions, although this successfully mirrors the current usage of this method, indicating high adoption rates.

Very few people list pre-paid cash cards, such as Monzo, Yolt and Revolut, as their prefered payment method, so while the physical act of paying via a contactless card has spread to be a widely accepted trend, the nature of the account used makes a big difference to Londoners.

Finally, there is room for payment apps to accelerate beyond the use of non-contactless bank cards. More consumers would rather use their payment app than this traditional method, suggesting a promising future for payment apps as the old chip & pin experience dies out and pre-paid cash cards fail to fill the void left behind.


The wheat and the chaff

Apple claim that their Apple Pay app is as simple as using a credit or debit card, and even safer. Meanwhile, Google profess that their Google Pay app is both fast and simple.

But are these benefits reaching consumers? How do Apple Pay and Google Pay users describe their experience of the apps?


Sure enough, the speed and ease of using a payment app to make in-store payments were design features that filter down to be the greatest benefits to the end user.

Apple’s focus on security translates less well. However, users of the apps are able to identify multiple further reasons for using the app over other methods, including reliability, the freedom it affords, and the pleasure involved in a modern transactions.

Reliability is a touchy topic, though.

42.6% of consumers say Apple Pay and Google Pay have failed them at least once.


Despite this, consumers are still adopting payment apps, as the app designers work to remove bugs and improve the experience of using this method.

To increase adoption rates, though, Apple and Google could look to the following top reasons why consumers with a compatible phone have so far failed to use the apps available to them.


The focus for both brands should be on the education of their potential customers, who are already users of their phones.

Interestingly, the remaining priorities differ between the two brands, with Apple phone users preferring to use card to pay for their purchases and Google phone users having a preference for cash.


Further comparisons: Apple Pay vs. Google Pay

Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to the relative infancy of Google Pay compared to Apple’s equivalent (Apple Pay was launched more than two years before Android Pay was introduced to market), we see much higher adoption levels amongst Apple phone users.

Of those respondents who use an iPhone, 69% have used Apple Pay at least once, and 38% of those use the app more than once a week.


Of respondents owning a Google Pay compatible phone, only 30% have ever used the app, and just 16% use it more than once a week.


Diving deeper, amongst consumers who have used their phone to make an in-store payment, 35% of Apple users have been using the app for more than a year, while 32% of Android phone users have been using Android/Google Pay for the same length of time.

Given that there’s an equal percentage of users making use of the product for at least a year, this data suggests that Apple has done better to establish their payment method as an everyday necessity.

In fact, amongst Apple users who began using Apple Pay more than one year ago, 21% use it every day, 39% use it multiple times each week, 24% a few times a month and just 16% only a few times in a year.


Comparatively, amongst Android users who began using Android/Google Pay more than one year ago, 20% use it every day, 27% a few times a week, 13% several times a month and a huge 40% only used it a handful of times within a year.


Is age just a number?

We may have been looking into the habits of Londoners, but when it comes to paying for things, there’s also great variance across generations.

Although the payment methods currently used vary only very slightly between Millennials (18-35) and older age groups, there are more marked variances in the preferred payment methods. Most obvious, only 14.5% of Millennials would choose payment apps as their method of choice, compared to 23.4% of older generations preferring this means.

The onus for Apple and Google then, will be to appeal to, and educate, the younger generations, in an effort to win over consumers yet to be convinced of the benefits.

Interestingly, amongst the younger generations who do use Apple Pay and Google Pay, their use seems to be more frequent. 12.3% of Millennials who use Apple Pay do so every day, and 6.7% of Millennial Google Pay users. In older generations, 7.9% of Apple Pay users do so every day, and only 4.7% of Google Pay users.

So whilst younger generations may be a harder market to win over, who seem to be more sold on pre-paid cash cards and other contactless means, they’re also a market worth winning due to the higher usage once on board.


Where Londoners shop

If Google, Apple, Monzo or HSBC are looking to market to Londoners in the places where they spend most money, then they should head to the following hotspots.

Oxford Street, Stratford and Central London all rank as the top three hotspots for current Apple Pay and Google Pay Users, and also amongst consumers who own an iPhone or Android phone but don’t currently use payment apps. So whether you’re marketing to existing Apple Pay and Google Pay users, or potential customers with compatible phones, the key areas where the most transactions are made remains the same. The other Westfield shopping center in London received further notable mention, as did Covent Garden, The City and Romford.



There’s no denying that the way Londoners pay for their in-store purchases is changing.

However, there seems to be a significant divide between the way consumers do pay, most notably in cash and by contactless debit and credit card, and the way they’d like to pay, by contactless card or a payment app.

Consumers certainly recognise the ease and efficiency of using a payment app to make purchases, hence why it ranks as the second most preferred payment method. But issues of reliability, lack of education and trust stand in the way of widespread adoption.

With time and conscientious branding efforts, Apple have managed to develop an app that users are adopting more and more into everyday practice, a milestone that Google is yet to reach.

With an activity as repetitive and mundane as making a payment, old habits can certainly die hard. But there’s a desire amongst consumers for a quicker, easier process that payment apps can certainly provide. Assuming, of course, that they’re able to iron out the bumps that cause someone to hold up the queue for the bus, spend 30 seconds loading and reloading their phone app, before sighing, reaching into their pocket and flipping open their trusty Oyster.

Related posts

How to Move Beyond Demographics with Psychographic Questions

This isn’t the first time we’ve written about the importance of segmenting your consumer base. Demarcating based on key factors like age, gender and location can mean the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful marketing campaign, product launch or customer service experience.

Posted by Beth McGarrick on January 22, 2019

10 Compelling Reasons For Businesses (Not Just Marketers!) to Run Market Segmentation

What do Tesla showrooms, shampoo adverts and loyalty cards have in common? They each rely on market segmentation to achieve their varied goals.

Posted by Beth McGarrick on January 08, 2019

Best of Attest in 2018

This year alone, we’ve published over 220 blog posts, which have been read 250,000 times. Four to five times a week we published articles on research strategy, consumer behaviours and emerging trends. All this has helped us keep marketeers and brand experts up to date with 12 months full of practical consumer insights.

Posted by Beth McGarrick on December 20, 2018

How to Take Your Research International

By the year 2020, according to Cisco, more people will have mobile phones than will have access to electricity. It’s estimated that, by this milestone, 5.4 billion people will have a mobile phone in their back pocket, while 5.3 billion will have personal access to a regular supply of electricity.

Posted by Beth McGarrick on December 11, 2018