The Rise of Mobile Wallets —and What Marketers Need to Know

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“An omnichannel mind-set is imperative for marketers in this space,” Tarleton says. “Should a consumer find a discount code on their mobile device, save it to their mobile wallet, then visit a physical store to shop and redeem, the process should be easy and enjoyable. Consumers are using their mobile devices to shop in all channels, and the wallet strategy approach should mirror that need.”


As mobile payment solutions evolve to become more complete mobile wallet experiences, marketers will have an enormous opportunity to strengthen customer relationships beyond the loyalty and rewards use cases. According to a Forrester report from April, the marketing potential of mobile wallets has yet to be fully uncovered.

The report identifies Alipay and WeChat, major mobile wallet players in China, as pioneers of a new model that incorporates coupons and offers from merchants; location-based tools for public services, local services, food ordering, and ride ordering; movie ticket buying; boarding passes; product information; product reviews; digital receipts; and loyalty cards. Additionally, both apps include identity organization services: ID cards, driver’s licenses, and vehicle registration certificates for Alipay; and social security cards for WeChat.

Though the report notes that market entry obstacles such as divergent business cultures, consumer behaviors, and regulations make it unlikely that Alipay and WeChat will directly operate in markets outside of China for some time, the marketing use cases they have developed for mobile wallets will inspire companies such as Apple and PayPal to transform their own solutions into more robust customer engagement platforms.

In fact, PayPal has already added stores-nearby and order-ahead features to its solution, the report notes.

The report also offers advice for marketers in particular. First, they need to build a localized strategy for how their organizations will adopt and use mobile wallets, a move especially challenging for larger global firms that tend to be slow to adopt a localized approach to new technologies.

Second, marketers need to take the initiative and test new technologies and innovations. They should reach out to players in the mobile wallet space to create new ways to engage with customers.

Miller says the first phase of the project should be getting integrations in place “so that if you’re publishing digital offers or coupons on the web, those offers and coupons can be pulled into an Apple wallet or an Android wallet.”

Through such a program, a company can ensure that once its offers get pulled into that wallet, a new communication mechanism with customers is created—the company can alert a customer to an offer in his wallet when he’s near a store, or automatically update offers if they expire.

Phase two involves coordinating all those offers and coupons together. “The digital wallet can do that seamlessly, and it can bring forth the best offer based on what the consumer has in that digital wallet…to create a better, more seamless experience,” Miller says.

He also weighs the pros and cons of businesses creating their own digital wallet experiences. “For the 50, 100, or 200 retailers out there that have massive scale and are omnichannel and have thousands of locations, creating their own digital wallet experience is worth it,” he says. For smaller retailers, it’s less so because they’ll have too few consumers downloading their apps.

Those retailers should instead look to the marketing opportunities that Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and similar products can create for them, Miller advises. Samsung Pay, for example, is particularly good at distributing gift cards, he notes.

“If you open up Samsung Pay today, you can go in there and buy gift cards from retailers at a discount, and you can seamlessly send them digitally to a friend or a family member,” he says. “These are new ways for retailers to engage with consumers, whether that’s with prepaid digital gift cards or with coupons, offers, and loyalty programs.”

Other experts agree. Vinson says that increased customer satisfaction and quicker checkout processes are major advantages for merchants, as is the dynamic nature of the digital user experience. In mobile wallets, businesses can, for example, update the look and feel of their products to coincide with other dynamic marketing offers, a move that static media such as physical gift cards obviously doesn’t allow.

“By integrating incentives, such as targeted offers, loyalty points, rebates, and more, into mobile wallets, companies can capitalize on marketing opportunities that can acquire customers, increase sales, and deepen engagement,” he adds.

“Most marketers are looking for ways to engage customers and build loyalty. Mobile payments will be a key lever to doing both, but only if [marketers] thoroughly think through the content, rewards, and personalization considerations,” Tarleton says.

Assistant Editor Sam Del Rowe can be reached at sdelrowe@infotoday.com.

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