No surprise: Gallup finds mobile wallets low priority for consumers

For those of us who have either followed or worked in this industry over the past 10 years, few things come as a surprise.

Sure, there are some trends we never saw coming. Who really knew smartphones and tablets would completely change the way merchants accept card payments and run their business? And if you really thought that would happen, I’d like to take you with me on my next trip to Atlantic City.

With my mPOS example as the benchmark for unforeseen shifts in the industry, it should come as no surprise that a Gallup poll released last week found just 13 percent of more than 17,000 consumers surveyed have a digital wallet on their smartphone.

While Gallup conducted two separate surveys from November 2014 through mid-January, it’s safe to assume the needle hasn’t moved much in the past six months. Maybe, just maybe, we’re approaching 15 percent of consumers now with a mobile wallet on their smartphone.

What’s more concerning for providers about Gallup’s poll results is how consumers continue to view certain aspects of mobile wallets such as Apple Pay/Passbook, Google Wallet (as it existed at the time of the survey), PayPal, and others.

Security concerns top the list of reasons why consumers shy away from proximity mobile wallets. Obviously, that’s not a surprise because we’ve known this for quite some time. Some 55 percent of respondents were concerned about some kind of security issue such as a hack or losing their phone.

Some 21 percent of respondents don’t know enough about mobile wallets to make a decision about them. I found it a bit surprising that as much as companies (and the media) hype things such as Apple Pay and PayPal, consumers have no idea how any of those products fit into their everyday lives.

Gallup recommended three ways mobile wallet providers can convince consumers to use their products. Stop me if you’ve heard of this before:

  • gain consumer trust regarding personal data security;
  • educate consumers about what digital wallets are and how to use them; and
  • provide a clear value proposition.

Each of these recommendations is linked to the others, but the value proposition conundrum is one that’s perplexed this industry from the very beginning. Why should I tap, when I can just as easily swipe?

With the migration to EMV, we’ll be dipping instead of swiping, and this actually might open up an opportunity for more widespread proximity mobile payments. Some industry observers believe that consumers might not like the idea of dipping a card into a terminal to pay. It’s a whole new behavior for U.S. consumers, who demand to be in and out of a store in as little time as possible. A quick phone tap during Black Friday shopping doesn’t look so bad now, does it?

Of course, it’s going to take more than the inconvenience of a card dip to change consumers’ minds about proximity mobile payments. The ability to keep every payment card, loyalty card, coupon, and more in one place should be enough for some folks, but still the numbers suggest otherwise. The road to widespread adoption will be a long and winding one. As I’ve said a million times before, come back and talk to me in the year 2020.

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