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Forrester’s Denée Carrington: Uber drives truly transformative mobile wallet experience

NEW YORK — A Forrester analyst at the 2014 MMA Forum admitted that not many mobile wallets available right now are blending commerce and context together seamlessly, although car transportation application Uber could be the exception.

Executives from Isis Mobile Commerce, Vibes, Forrester Research and Acta Wireless dished on mobile wallets and payments during the “Mobile Wallet: Hype or Reality?” session. Giving consumers an upfront value exchange for using a mobile wallet is often cited as key in scaling mobile wallets, but Ms. Carrington took this idea a step further by discussing how Uber combines both time and location to create context.

“I think there are actually very few wallet experiences that really transform the consumer experience,” said Denée Carrington, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA.

“The one that I would offer up is Uber,” she said. “If we assume for a moment that Uber could be a wallet app, it’s a branded app with a payment.”

“The idea that the payments disappear is one part of if, but the piece that I think is transformational when you are thinking about transportation is that you can get what you want in your immediate context in your moment of need right away.”

Marketing mobile’s potential
In addition to Uber, the session also discussed how mobile payments are marketing themselves to consumers.

According to Ms. Carrington, LevelUp is an example of a mobile wallet service that plays up marketing to educate consumers on how to pay for items via their smartphones and tablets.

The company leverages its platform for location, day parting and context to lure in both new and repeat consumers.

While mobile commerce continues to grow, tablet and smartphone sales only represent a fraction of total digital sale for retailers.

Forrester predicts that ecommerce will represent nine percent of total retail sales by 2016. Of those digital sales, mobile will only generate eight percent.

Therefore, the opportunity for retailers with mobile payments is to bring ecommerce insights into the offline world.

“The big prize is still in-store retail and the opportunity to support consumers, again, across their shopping journey and their commerce experiences with you,” Ms. Carrington said.

Save on mobile
Consumers are increasingly becoming more aware of how mobile wallets such as Apple’s Passbook and Google Wallet work as more retailers roll out the technology as part of marketing campaigns geared towards building up loyalty programs.

“The mobile wallet is really about storage of offers and storage of loyalty cards and how you can make that experience more convenient for the consumer,” said Jack Philbin, co-founder/CEO of Vibes, Chicago.

“The mobile wallet can be applied to much more than just transactions and more things along that path to purchase,” he said.

Take email, for example.

Mr. Philbin said that adding a mobile call-to-action in an email campaign can be an effective way for marketers to give email marketing promotions a boost. In fact, Vibes worked with a national retailer that saw seven percent higher conversions from a promotion tied to a mobile wallet than conversions from a printed email.

Leveraging location is another way that marketers are building up awareness about mobile payments.

For instance, Ed Busby, former chief commerce officer of Isis Mobile Commerce, Carlsbad, CA, said that Isis partnered with Placecast to dole out location-based offers.

Isis had a program where consumers could opt-in in exchange for receiving location-based SMS alerts. Participants were three times more active than anyone else, and were twice as active once they had opted-in to the program.

While this explosion in couponing apps, mobile wallets and technology certainly builds up awareness around mobile payments, it is also creating a string of marketing challenges.

“As we look at [mobile payments] from a marketer’s perspective, right now, it’s an incredibly fragmented world,” Mr. Busby said. “Everybody’s out there with a coupon app, a loyalty app, whatever’s out there — none of which have gotten a high degree of scale. I’d put Isis in there at least for now as well.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York