What’s the future of the mobile wallet?

What’s the future of the mobile wallet?

Even as recently as 15-20 years ago, the primary things most people wouldn’t leave their house without were wallet and keys. After all, smartphones didn’t debut until about 2007. While people had cell phones and Blackberries prior to that, those only came into vogue in the late 1990s.

Flash forward to today: what are the three things you probably never leave your house without? Most people would say wallet, keys, and phone.

But here’s where it begins to get even odder: many people on business trips these days? They only leave their room with their phone. At many hotel chains now, such as Starwood, your phone becomes your room key. And at hundreds of businesses, your phone can also be your wallet.

This evolution from ‘standard wallet’ to ‘digital wallet’ happened relatively quickly. Because the rise of the digital wallet is an important aspect of how big a deal mobile has become, it’s relevant to look at the process of how we got here.

The first generation digital wallet
You can think of the first wave of digital wallets as the late 1990s. The big player in the space then was PayPal. These were essentially software solutions that provided an easy way to store cards for repeat online purchases. PayPal was such an important brand in the early days of the commercial Internet that many of its founders, the so-called PayPal Mafia, went on to become billionaires. (eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002.)

The role of NFC
NFC, or Near Field Communications, is a set of standards for portable devices. It allows them to establish peer-to-peer radio communications, passing data from one device to another by touching them or putting them very close together.

NFC has been one of the driving forces of the digital wallet evolution. The first phone with NFC technology was actually released in 2006 — a Nokia — and at the time, the idea was considered game-changing.

Since then, however, there’s been a slow adoption of NFC technology as a standard-bearer for digital wallets. Only a percentage of the most popular phones come equipped with it, and oftentimes retailers have to shift their point-of-sale software in order to be compatible. In addition, per Wired, there are only about 220,000 live contactless merchant locations in the U.S. — out of 8 million vendors that accept credit cards.

The big three players in digital wallets — and “the beacon”
PayPal is still one of them. The other two are Google and Apple, although competitors are emerging at all levels. (More on that in a second.) Google, Apple, and PayPal are all exploring different options above and beyond NFC. Some of the notable ones are Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and QR codes. Bluetooth 4.0 has been considered a strong game-shifter in the last two years. That system works with a lower-power variant so that two devices can connect when they’re in the same range. However, no point-of-sale systems need to be changed at all. There’s something called “a beacon,” which is akin to a scannable sensor. Apple, PayPal, and Square (the device you’ve probably seen on top of phones and iPads at craft fairs) all use the beacon right now. It allows for longer phone battery life (compared to NFC) and a higher bitrate for data.

Security and user experience are the keys
The reason Apple Pay has gone above Google Wallet at the highest levels of digital wallet evolution is for this reason. The key deliverables — both for consumers and issuers — are security and user experience. Apple Pay now has tokenization of card numbers, biometric (thumbprint) log-ins, and on-device storage. In the process, they’ve been able to get a solid market share on the issuer side (credit card companies), because they offer a simple and private way to pay. Per Wired, they’re working with 11 credit card issuers who represent 83% of U.S. charge volume.

U.S. shift to chip and pin technology
If you live in the U.S., you may have noticed in recent months that many vendors are asking you if your credit card has a chip. If you’ve traveled abroad, you understand a little bit how this works — but in the U.S., we’ve predominantly had magnetic stripes on the back of our credit cards for a generation. The chip technology is called EMV, and most chip-card reading terminals can work with NFC. This supports contactless payment, which means a whole host of digital wallet options are opening up as the U.S. fully transitions to chip-based credit cards.

The next wave
There are different emerging concepts out in this space: Coin, for example, is a smart wallet that uses a physical card as opposed to storing data directly on your phone. Their website proudly displays that they’ve shipped over 250,000 devices so far. Their concept is similar to Wocket, billed as the ‘smartest wallet you’ll ever own.’ Lifelock Wallet, an app that scans 1 trillion data points per day for threats to its users, is another contender. Cuallet is one of the most interesting options on the market, in part because it’s multi-currency. One of the potentially great promises of the continued evolution of digital wallets is that they might make e-currency like Bitcoin easier to pay for goods and services with. Cuallet also allows for international and domestic airtime recharge.

A final important note on the evolution of digital wallets: companies don’t just operate in the first world, but in developing economies, people need methods to pay for things. Paper money is often not a viable option because of physical security risks (i.e. robbery), so new digital wallet concepts are developing to serve those markets. CBS’ 60 Minutes did a feature this year on M-PESA, a digital wallet/mobile payments solution taking Kenya by storm. The key difference between M-PESA and more familiar U.S.-based options? You don’t need to be linked to a bank account to use M-PESA. 8 in 10 Kenyans have a smartphone, but less than 20 percent have a bank account. Hence, this solution is ideal.

We’ll continue to see more and more evolution with the digital wallet — as a function of new credit card policies and technologies, as a function of new apps competing and interacting, and even as a function of the rise of connected devices via Internet of Things. We’re only scratching the surface with how exactly people will pay for goods and services in the coming years.

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The Importance of Wearable Devices

The Importance of Wearable Devices

With the launch of Series 3 Apple Watch in September 2017 and the extraordinary craze for Fitbit wristbands, wearable devices are once again in the limelight. Though Smartwatches are yet not as successful as Smartphones, the journey from desktop to tablets evidently states that the size of devices is shrinking — but not the market or demand. Morgan Stanley, a leading global financial services company, reports that “Wearable Devices are A Potential $1.6 Trillion Dollar Business.”

The success of these wearable gadgets has paced up a revolution where the innovation is not just handy but influencing our lives to the core. People today appreciate devices which blend in with your body and work efficiently.

Wearable technology or wearable devices such as activity trackers, Bluetooth headsets, virtual reality headsets, Bluetooth rings, etc. have given a new dimension to the Internet of Things.

The popularity of wearable devices is increasing day-by-day. Digital watches came into existence in 1972 and today, smartwatches are the most fashionable form of wearable devices. Fitness bands — also incredibly popular — monitor health and focus on fitness by keeping a check on heartbeat, calories, etc. Smart shoes were developed to help visually-challenged people. The launch of Google Glass was itself a revolution. Though hearing aids, Bluetooth headset, etc. have existed, VR headsets took us to the realm of a virtual world.

Wearables are not just for the tech-savvy. It’s also a fashion statement, legitimately. There are jackets with earphones attached to the collar, neckties with a hidden camera and earrings with the microphone. Sony has even filed a patent for a SmartWig embedded with a variety of sensors which is capable of communicating with smartphones. The SmartWig also features built-in GPS, ultrasound transducers that vibrate when obstacles are approaching. The wig also comes with integrated lasers for remote PowerPoint presentations. (That’s not even a joke.) Nothing seems impossible. NeuroOn is another device that regulates sleep and works wonder for jetlag.

These devices are changing our world.

Which heart patient would not love to wear a gym vest which is comfortable and monitors your health? How easy would it be to watch and regulate blood sugar if something on your finger continually tells you when and when not to have a bit of chocolate or pudding? For those who always wake up late and fail to reach office in time, what if there is a ring that vibrates and gently wakes you up at the right time along with examining the quality of sleep you are getting?

The effect of these devices is going to be extensive, and they are already bringing overwhelming changes to the way we live and think. It’ll change everything. It’s not hype.

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When should you build a mobile app?

When should you build a mobile app?

Smartphones have not only changed our perception of using ‘thumb impressions’ but have provided the market with a vast scope for advertising and engaging potential customers.

Mobile apps have become a necessity for the business world. It’s no longer a “nice to have” for a company. It’s a “need to have,” generally. If you don’t have one, aren’t you lagging behind the competition?

The number of mobile users around the world should reach around 5.07 billion by the end of 2019. Currently, there are almost 1.6 million Android apps available in Google Play and about 1.5 million in the Apple App store.

Apps increase customer engagement by reducing the waiting period (loading time) consumed by websites — and can also be used offline. They reduce the cost of advertisement and enhance the visibility of a company’s brand.

Building an app may not be a big deal but making an efficient app surely is. Beware snake oil: there are any number of software “solutions: available on the web which promises developing an incredible mobile application in “a few simple steps.” Usually these are lies.

Developing an app is crucial, and one should invest in it if they must, but only after adequate preparation and research — since it is a costly errand and runs some risk.

There are several things to keep in mind before heading towards developing a mobile app:

Target Audience
Apps are built after websites, so existing customers can be approached to determine whether there is a market for your app or not. If your audience is operational on social media, this could be a yes for you. People are visibly active on different social media handles just because these apps analyze what they like and offer them things as per their taste. (That’s essentially how algorithms work.) One should not forget that hundreds of apps are downloaded and deleted on a regular basis. The content of any app is very audience-specific.

You should also be clear about the motive of your app. What are you going to provide? Is it going to grab their attention? How will you improve the services? Customers are impatient; if you supply good, they demand better.

Time and resources
Investing time and money to something that is not valuable for the clients is futile. Apps not only need a superior budget for development, but need to be maintained and updated time-to-time. Cheap apps do not bring in business — and when there is a scope for other pocket-friendly options why go for an app?

Business requirements
Apps are more useful for businesses that require high customer interaction and engagement. If your competitors have an app, and it is performing well (you can check stats via Google and get a general sense), then it might be time to have an app of your own.

An application with no enticing features and unattractive looks cannot help the business. In the absence of attractive features, the app may get downloaded once but will not be used again by the user. If you are providing customers with something fascinating, it is the time to get closer to the clients.

Technical aspects
Which tool should be chosen and with what theme? How much data will your app consume? Is it 3G/4G compatible or not? Will the app be supported by different smartphone brands? How long will it take to load?

Another significant thing to keep in mind is – ‘is your app free or paid’? People like free stuff but apps of both kinds are downloaded considering their utility. If the concept you are providing is unique and you believe that the target audience might be willing to pay for the services, you need to mark the choice accordingly.

The information being provided on the app should be a clear description of all what you have to offer. The representation is as important as the customer review and compels the reader to download the app.

Other than these, you need to appropriately choose the right platform (iOS/Android) for your App., develop a strategy to deal with negative reviews and other issues.

Is that all?


Developing an app may seem like a relatively easy solution to all the marketing troubles but, several others are doing the same. If you have not made a strategic plan to increase the app’s visibility, you might eventually disappear altogether. You cannot straightforwardly build or launch an app randomly. Even the time of launch and platform need to be analyzed beforehand.

The services need to be provided to the right people at the right time and through the right platform.

Overall, an app makes sense when:

– Your product or service requires high levels of interaction with its user such as activities or Games (like Angry Birds) work better with an app.

– Your services are highly personalized and the content is supposed to be regularly used. e.g., language learning apps.

– You have a successfully running website to serve as the base for your app and you need to add value by increasing the size of your database.

– Your idea is of providing offline access to your users even when offline, a mobile app will work better.

– You need to access a user’s information like messages, location, contacts

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Mobile Impact – It’s Not a Strategy or Tactic

Mobile Impact – It’s Not a Strategy or Tactic

Millennials and mobile. It’s like Taco Bell and 3 AM.

As of early October 2014, there were more mobile devices on the planet than people. Considering that mobile phones only date to 1973 and smartphones only date to about 2007, that’s an insanely rapid growth rate — and it’s affecting everything.

Comedian Aziz Ansari has a section in his new book (Modern Romance) about how people now lead “real lives” (with their families, friends, and work obligations) and “phone lives” (with the content on their devices). Those lives aren’t the same.

For most people, this “phone life” is centered around apps. Most companies, products, services, and organizations have apps — as of July 2015, there were about 1.6 million Android apps available, and about 1.5 million in Apple’s store.

But there are a few fundamentally-flawed ways that companies are thinking about mobile these days. Let’s address a couple of those herein.

Mobile isn’t a silo

Many companies treat “mobile” as a silo or have a group of people designed with owning the processes and products of mobile. (Unfortunately, many companies also do this with “digital.”) The problem is … mobile cannot be a silo. Look at the first sentence of this article and click the link if you’d like. There are more mobile phones on the planet than human beings. There’s a good chance that someone will research your business from their phone, or click from an e-mail on their phone to something related to your business. If it’s a terrible experience, they’ll click away and likely never return.

Many companies get caught up and confused in the digital/mobile revenue problem: the ROI isn’t always as immediately apparent as some more traditional marketing approaches. That is true, although it’s changing and some companies — i.e. Facebook as a notable example — are reaping huge amounts of money from mobile.

If your concern internally is that a focus on mobile/digital is taking resources away from more traditionally-profitable areas, try shifting your thinking this way: how much money could you be leaving on the table with a bad mobile experience for a client/customer/user? If Google Analytics is showing you that 200 people come into your site via mobile in a given day but 93% of them bounce, well, you can do the math there — if even a fraction of those people became customers/clients/users, that would represent growth. And as of now, you’re losing them.

In short, it isn’t a silo. It needs to be baked in and considered with everything you do.

The on-the-go is a lifestyle

If you think of the goal of marketing as getting a message out to as many people — or at least the right people — as possible, then consider this: what things do people traditionally not leave home without? For most people, it’s their phone, wallet, and keys. (‘PWK,’ which is a joke on Broad City.)

Well, it’s hard to market to someone’s keys — although you could argue FitBit and similar devices are a form of that. It’s hard to market directly to someone’s wallet (aside from business cards, and that requires an additional step). But you can market directly to their phone — via having an app or having a good mobile experience.

Here’s the dividing line there: as noted above, there are over a million apps in both major stores. There’s also a major 80-20 split with apps; most people download about 20-30 over time and consistently use about 5-6. You can launch an app, but it’s hard to make yours stand out (not impossible, but hard — and hey, we can help you with that).

What you can control, though, is how people experience your product/service from their phone. Most content management systems have a mobile-friendly option that’s often as easy as checking a box (WordPress offers this).

A few weeks ago, we went to a small business expo with a series of vendors. One of the vendors was billing himself as a “marketing expert” and he had banners promising all sorts of things — turbo-charging our business, 8,200% growth, email list building, etc. Before we approached his table, we Googled him from our phone. His site wasn’t mobile-friendly at all. We instantly turned in the other direction and never went back. It’s hard to be a marketing expert if your online business card — i.e. your website — isn’t mobile-friendly.

Mobile isn’t a strategy
Mobile Drives Online TrafficThis is another issue at the enterprise level; people often call mobile “a strategy.” It’s not. Again, it’s a way of life for people now. Calling it a “strategy” implies there are set beginning/end dates, and there’s not. It needs to be part of everything you’re trying to do from a messaging and marketing and business development standpoint.
Almost 80 percent of the top news sites are getting more traffic from mobile, but only about 20 percent of them are seeing higher engagement. Why the gap? The experience is likely shoddy. This is a problem with thinking of mobile as “a strategy” rather than something you just do because it’s good business to please your customers however they want to get to your product.

The key to winning with mobile is to understand and put your user and their lifestyle first before the first pixel is pushed and the first word is created.

What challenges are you having to connect with the on-the-go user?

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