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Mobile wallets and payments: 3 key features for success

Mobile wallets seem to be popping up everywhere , with banks, card processors, internet media companies, mobile operators, start-ups and more are all fighting for the future pie which nobody seems to know how big it will be, but hopefully soon will surpass the pie of analyst reports about the topic.

So what type of mobile wallet will succeed? Perhaps it is an individual question – after all, some like leather wallets – some like Velcro ones you can take to the beach. Some people stuff it with family photos – others with receipts (or both). Some  like to manage their finances, others don’t care as long as there is money in the account.

So what will the winning wallet look like? Will people have many of them? Will they move freely from one to the other? And what is the basis for selection? There are more questions than answer in this, as we have not even begun to scratch the surface. But I do believe there are certain key things that the wallets that do win need to have.


How can a wallet engage you say? Well for one, it needs to understand me and my context and react accordingly. This means for instance that I get push notifications and alerts when the security of my money is in any way compromised. And I should be able to set these alerts myself.  If I like to get deals while shopping, it should serve me the right deal I am looking for depending on where I am.

It should be location aware. Apple’s Passbook is a great example in that regards in that it will bring up the card of your choice based on where you are. Happen to be at Woolworth’s? Well, pop up the Woolworth’s loyalty card as soon as I reach for my phone.

Engagement takes many forms. Perhaps it awards me with a badge for saving money or finding a good deal. Whatever it is, the companies offering them needs to define the engagement as users have now come to expect this to be embedded in new services.


There have been attempts at analyzing what your wallet says about you , like the psychologist interviewed by Weekly World News who identified 8 different ways of how you use the wallet and what that says about you, and Weekly World News also polled their readers on this. Seemingly 43% of Weekly World News readers are intellectual hard workers, which very well may be true. Choosing the traditional wallet is very much a choice (by you or the one who gave it to you) – and while the looks of of your wallet may not say too much about you, how you use it probably does.

In practice, this means that the mobile wallet needs to inherit some of the characteristics of the physical one, in that it can be customized and adapted to the user. Even though it may no longer by physical, a one-size-all wallet will not cut it.

And it better not be geeky either, as that can certainly hurt your dating chances quite seriously, as described by retailer Maxwell Scott:

Just imagine if you were on a date and you saw the other person bring out a torn and tattered wallet from his or her pocket. You would definitely be a little disheartened. But, if the person flashes a really classy, shiny leather wallet, you would most definitely be impressed.

When will the time come when we flash our digital wallet to impress? I dear to think it will be some time out in the future – though perhaps closer in time for some.

Easy to use

This is the part where you say “duuuuh”. Well, yes, of course it has to be dead easy to use. And it has to be available everywhere. It has to be safe, secure, hold all my cards, know which ones I like to use and when, etc, etc. Most of all it has to actually do payments! Sounds evident, but not necessarily so according to this BBC reporter:

Luckily, as WSJ points out, wallets by Visa and the like do focus on exactly this aspect – making a payment, while others focus on everything else a wallet could be doing. Judging from the BBC, looks like we are quite not there for the all signing and dancing wallet as some early versions cannot even handle the basic task of making a payment. But one thing is certain, your wallet will soon do that and a lot more.

And the time may come we whip out or phone to say “check out what MY wallet can do”. Then again, probably not a good idea.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this post are mine and do not reflect the views of any clients or companies I am currently working for or have worked for.

Posted in The Business of Mobile.