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Could Mobile Wallets Mean the End of 'Voucher Stigma'?

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Simon Robinson, senior director, marketing and alliances in Europe, Middle East and Africa at Responsys, explores how the latest technology innovations are changing the way consumers and brands interact

Weve, the mobile joint venture from Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone, is making significant headway towards making mobile wallets a reality. If things go to plan, you could very well end up walking out of the house with just your mobile phone, leaving cards and cash at home.

Mobile wallets will enable consumers to pay using their mobile phones by swiping them at terminals as part of the check-out process. The service uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, similar to London Transport's Oyster card system.

Shifting away from 'voucher stigma'
But how will the move benefit brands and consumers? Most people will have, at some point in their lives, used vouchers or coupons to get a discount or special price for goods or services. Being British, many of us will sheepishly hand them over, unsure if they are valid, fearing it being refused. Voucher stigma is not only embarrassing; it seems strange to rely on a paper-based system in today's digital age.

With a mobile wallet the process could be quite different. Consider this: you're walking past your favourite Indian take-away on the way home. As you walk past you get a text offering you half-price on your favourite curry. The next day you walk in and order the curry, paying by flashing the back of your phone at the point of payment with the offer applied automatically.

You've opted in to receive texts from the Indian takeaway so you are happy for them to contact you over your mobile. Geolocation technology enables companies and brands that you actively subscribe to know when you are in the local area, and because you use your phone to pay for your curry, the shop also knows what your favourite kind is.

Opt-in or opt-out
This is one example of how mobile payments could be used in the future. But key to its success is permission. To avoid such messages becoming an unwelcome intrusion, brands and companies must get customer permission.

Another crucial factor is educating retailers on the benefits of the technology. When contactless cards were introduced, retailers were not sure of the benefits of faster payments, resulting in a scenario where card issuers were unwilling to get behind the scheme because there weren't enough payment terminals in use, and retailers did not want to install terminals because there were few cards being used.

However mobile wallets are slightly different. There are more incentives for retailers given the opportunity to collect data on customer preferences. The potential to offer retailers a wealth of valuable customer information particularly on purchasing patterns is expected to drive adoption.

Data means loyalty
This information will help brands and companies to target offers and build a clearer picture of customers, potentially leading to the development of new products and services. But there is also a clear benefit for consumers who are increasingly looking for more personalised relevant offers and content from brands and companies.

The advent of the mobile wallet could not only mean the death of paper vouchers, it could also mean the end of physical loyalty cards. For customers this will mean needing to carry fewer cards, if any, and also the ability to redeem points all from their phone.

It is clear that mobile payments could transform the way we shop, and how brands and companies tailor offers to keep us loyal. It seems like merely a matter of time before we see mobile checkouts on the high street as mobile payments take shape as the next step in the smartphone revolution.