This is where things get dicey. Many major e-tailers — and note that Amazon is conspicuously absent from Apple’s list — already have systems in place to give repeat visitors a faster, easier and, yes, frictionless experience. Amazon is big on one-click and already knows the payment card details and address and name of its repeat customers.
In short, how much of a reduction in friction will this deliver for repeat customers? That depends on how good the retailer is at making the experience effortless.
The big potential here is with customers visiting e-commerce sites that they have never visited before. Many of those are smaller and more specialized sites — and most of them are not supporting this program, according to a list of retailers provided by Apple. For those that are, you typically need to do the onboarding process (type in your name, address and a few other items) before you get to the payments area. If the sites went to payments first, they could spare the shopper of all of that. Alas, they typically don’t.
On the “greater friction argument,” this is a sharp deviation from how people are used to buying online. Any new behavior is going to add friction. If this were more universal — for example, if Visa offered this for any merchant accepting Visa and sent the hardware for free to shoppers so they could scan their fingers — then the new more-secure behavior would be learned quickly.
As it is, though, this is going to impact a tiny minority of shoppers (those using Apple desktop hardware and a recent Apple Watch or iPhone) shopping at a tiny minority of retailers. And it will reduce the friction for those few people only after repeated visits — which many of those retailers would have done anyway. For what it’s worth, Apple argues that the ideal Apple Pay scenario will not require Apple Pay users to input any of that info. But many e-tailers have yet to get there.
That all said, this is still a good move, albeit a frustratingly small and incremental one. It will start to get transactions to authenticate biometrically, which certainly is better than what exists today. As in-store systems get more secure — with EMV, among other methods — fraud will increasingly go online.
At least for a handful of Apple users, that method will be met with a finger. Will it meaningfully reduce friction? No. Will it incrementally increase security? Slightly — and that’s a good start.