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Best Practice for Retailer-led Wallets

In effort to better understand the mobile payments space I find myself spending considerable time speaking with retailers. Retailers - particularly those who have implemented their own closed-loop wallets - provide valuable insight, given they're one of the prime constituents of mobile payments. In my conversations with retailers who have deployed successful wallets in the market, several themes consistently emerge. These include:

  • Conducting customer research before development. It's startling how often retailers overlook the importance of obtaining feedback from their customers before creating a mobile application. Given customers are the end users of the wallet/app, understanding what they're looking to accomplish with it is vital. Retailers must pinpoint their customer's pain-points and look to address them in the design phase. It's also critical to understand early on what type of functionality their soon-to-be users will demand. 
  • Creating a platform for continuous engagement. Wallets and apps that are thrown to customers with an out of sight out of mind mentality are quite obviously destined for failure. It's important that retailers design their payment applications as a means of engaging with users and enhancing the overall relationship. Starbucks does an exceptional job with this as evidenced by its free weekly download of games/apps, offers, and loyalty integration.
  • Remaining flexible in terms of technology. Given the nascent stage of mobile payments, it makes little sense for retailers to marry themselves to one technology. As much as we like to think we have an idea of what the enabling technology for m-payments will be five years down the road, it could very well be something unseen in the market today. When partnering with a developer, it's essential that they're able to support a variety of technologies. Of the many reasons MCX chose Gemalto, its technology-agnostic approach was undoubtedly a key element. This way, if NFC does reign supreme in the future, MCX can easily ditch the barcode.
  • Maintaining a loyalty and value-added focus at all times. Consumers don't need another way to pay. Cash and cards work fine and are far from broken. Any payment application that's simply a credit card in a different form factor will be ignored and quickly overlooked. As consumers, we couldn't care less about payments - we just want them to work. To gain adoption and provide real value that traditional payments can't, loyalty and offers integration is necessary. The value-proposition must be centered on the consumer at all times, with the payments component being as invisible as possible. 

As retailers become increasingly enamored by the concept of mobile payments, they must understand that wallets should be about their shoppers. Those retailers that embrace this concept will undoubtedly increase customer loyalty and satisfaction while enhancing their overall relationship with the end-user.



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