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The Keys to the Digital Wallet Kingdom

WASHINGTON – A recent Gallup analysis shows that despite increased use of smartphones and mobile devices, enthusiasm for digital wallets is still low. So digital wallet companies—regardless of whether they are technology firms, retailers, banks or credit-card companies—are looking for opportunities to win share from consumers and merchants.

Only 13% of U.S. adults with a smartphone have a digital wallet on their device, according to a Gallup poll, and 76% of those who have a digital wallet have never used it or have almost never used it to make a purchase from a retailer in the past 30 days. Of the U.S. consumers using a digital wallet, men and millennials use it more than the rest of U.S. adults: 11% of men and 11% of millennials use it every time or almost every time if they can to make a purchase.

Among consumers who have digital wallets, 38% don’t see any benefits of using the technology, and nine out of 10 consumers who don’t have a digital wallet say they are very unlikely or unlikely to start using one in the next 12 months (91%).

Amplified by the “network effect,” which suggests that a good or service becomes more valuable as more people begin to use it, the provider that gains the greatest number of early adopters could well dominate the marketplace, said Gallup

Here are some ways providers can create timely strategies to overcome barriers to adopting their digital wallets:

  • Gain consumer trust on personal data security. Gallup’s 2014 consumer trust study confirms that customers place some or a lot of trust in their banks to keep their personal data secure (91%), far more than they trust credit-card companies (66%), cellphone platform providers (63%), cellphone carriers (59%), brick-and-mortar and online retailers (69% and 58%, respectively) and social networking services (23%).

Though consumers’ adoption of their bank’s digital wallets is low, banks are well-positioned to overcome security concerns and increase use of their branded wallets. Given the complex network needed to make a digital wallet work, however, all companies involved—including retailers, cellphone carriers, banks and credit-card companies—must strive to build trust among consumers and respond quickly to any security breaches. Consumers will remain reluctant to adopt this technology if they don’t trust all parties involved to keep their personal data safe and secure.

  • Educate consumers on what digital wallets are and how to use them. Following the launch of Apple Pay, many consumers have received emails and seen ads from companies and financial services firms encouraging them to adopt their company’s product. Before more consumers become users, though, companies must help them understand what a digital wallet is and how to use it.

Approaches include playing a video on how to use a digital wallet to customers waiting in line at a bank branch, or asking call center agents to close a call by asking customers if they are using a digital wallet, giving them the benefits of using one and answering any questions they might have about digital wallets.

Retailers also could provide signage near checkouts explaining the benefits of a digital wallet and directing customers where to go for more information.

  • Provide a clear value proposition. Almost all digital wallet providers claim they offer convenience, relieving customers of the need to carry multiple cards and remember separate passwords for each; however, 14% of nonusers are unconvinced by this claim.

Companies must be innovative and provide different value propositions based on their unique competitive advantages to connect with consumers. For example, with knowledge about a customer’s disposable income, credit-card ownership and purchasing preferences and frequencies, banks can offer more than a convenient method to make purchases. They can also serve as trusted financial advisers, helping customers understand how they are spending their money and how to make informed decisions about future purchases. Technology giants such as Google with its coming Android Pay platform and PayPal with its purchase of the Paydiant platform also want to maximize their strong technology and programming capabilities to provide customized digital wallets that developers can use to create their own apps. Customized apps would allow merchants to have their own uniquely branded digital wallets.

The lukewarm state of the digital wallet market is mainly driven by consumer reluctance to adopt this new technology, according to Gallup analysis. The good news for budding providers is that both the technology and the market are still developing, which offers every player a chance to win.

Companies that can convince consumers to adopt their digital wallets—by gaining their trust, educating them on how to use the technology and by providing a clear value proposition on how using it will benefit them—will likely be the market leaders of the future.


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