What’s in your information wallet?
By Rob Hammond
More than a catchy pop culture phrase, “What’s in your wallet?” has important implications for the mobile ecosystem.
The type of information, function and acceptable use of a wallet’s contents not only enable transactions, but these items and metadata also provide context to enrich customer engagement. For consumers, a wallet has truly become much more than a place to store value for purchasing digital goods. It represents a place to store highly personal information.
This very much came to light recently when I was speaking with a customer about mobile context, rich customer interactions and the role of light OS apps such as Apple Passbook and Google Wallet. When I mentioned Google Wallet, the customer immediately brought up the challenges and fragmentation surrounding mobile commerce but missed the point about the other information that the light OS (wallet) can make available.
Being a product guy, I started at the logical place, my own wallet, and then conducted an admittedly most unscientific poll that included rummaging through the wallets of family and friends. Here is a representative summary of what I found:
• Credit cards (two for personal use and one for work)
• Debit card
• Cash (two currencies)
• Loyalty cards (two)
• Annual pass for entertainment venue
• Shopping list for home improvement center
• Receipts (personal and work)
• To-do list
• Government ID
• Auto insurance card
• Health insurance card
• Wholesale club membership card
• Airport parking ticket
• Health club membership
• In-memory clipping
• Newspaper clipping
It is clear that a wallet is for more than just carrying cash. The wallet is a place to store important, highly personal information – information that protects you and connects you to events and people. The items in my wallet sample fit into a few logical groups: commerce, identification, loyalty, reminders and memories.
Commerce, identity and loyalty
Years ago, close to 20, in fact, we had a soda machine in my office building that could use mobile data to enable purchases. This was a first taste of the capability for mobile commerce, but now we are seeing mobile interactions really take off.
With the arrival of mobile broadband and apps, we are finally beginning to see a glimpse of the scale of disruption that mobile will bring to commerce and interactions in general.
For the 2013 holiday season, mobile traffic was just under half of total online traffic, and mobile sales grew 40 percent to reach 29 percent of total online traffic. Apps are becoming purpose-built distinct and separate wallets that enable commerce, establish identity and track loyalty.
We are also beginning to see some common identification functions evolve from dominant services that can provide authentication to establish identity, much like someone can use a government ID card for a nongovernment service.
The challenge, though, becomes the exhaustion of dealing with the multiple distinct personalities and programs. If you are anything like me, you are a member of a lot more loyalty programs than the cards you carry. I actually have another wallet – let us call it a “wallet annex” – for the cards that are not important enough to carry.
Reminders and memories
While commerce, identity and loyalty are about enabling transactions, reminders and memories are about who we are as people. These are the highly personal things that give us comfort.
Reminders and memories establish connections to our friends, family and the world at large.
For me, the phone photo album, email, messaging and notepad have already begun to replace the need for their physical counterparts.
As more reminders and memories become digital, the metadata from these items will create rich pools of context for building customer engagement.
What is next?
Certainly we will have even more apps in the near term.
Mobile broadband and smartphones have fundamentally changed how we live. But what is just after app proliferation is really interesting.
I think we will see increasing app atrophy and app exhaustion. Much as I have experienced with my loyalty cards, I am tired of apps. I do not want more, do not want everyone tracking me, do not want them to notify me and certainly do not understand why an airline needs access to my photos.
There will be only a few apps that I let inside my personal space. There will be a couple of apps for work and a couple more from utilitarian broad category providers that I really trust.
Today’s highly fragmented world has become just too complex and hard to manage.
Much like messaging aggregators that simplify the complexity of text notifications, service providers will emerge that will simplify the app world and enable users to control what apps have access to in their personal information wallets. This information will create new services that allow brands and consumers to protect, engage and reach each other.
Rich interactions will become possible with the context derived from the information wallet and the associated metadata. This same information will allow users to manage how and when they are reached and by what company, be it by text, Web, light OS app or full mobile app.
YEARS AGO, we debated whether the Internet or telecommunication service providers would own the customer. Of course, we all learned the answer was neither: the consumer is independent and owns her or his information.
This is an incredible time to build services that enable brands and consumers to engage, protect and reach each other. Context derived from the information wallet and managed by the customer will change the landscape of how we think about commerce and communications.