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Why “Mobile Wallet” Isn’t a Strategy

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DATA-DRIVEN CMO is an ongoing series on the Brooks Bell Blog that focuses on topics for the modern day data-driven CMO.

For the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about “Big Data.” It’s a massive topic but underlying it is another term that gets a lot of attention, though few people truly know what to make of it. If Big Data is the elephant in the room, “Mobile Wallet” is the mouse peeking its head around one massive leg. And like Big Data, marketers are confused as to why Mobile Wallet is important.

Mobile Wallet, according to Wikipedia is:

Mobile payment, also referred to as mobile money, mobile money transfer, and mobile wallet generally refer to payment services operated under financial regulation and performed from or via a mobile device. Instead of paying with cash, check, or credit cards, a consumer can use a mobile phone to pay for a wide range of services and digital or hard goods. Although the concept of using non-coin-based currency systems has a long history, it is only recently that the technology to support such systems has become widely available.

Believe me, I understand why the term sticks. It’s an easy way to explain the concept: “it’s as if everything in your wallet is digital! On your phone! Get it? Mobile Wallet!” Cue the nods of understanding and approval from the crowd. It’s like Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza. It’s neither a pizza nor Mexican but people can easily understand what it is.

mobile walletThe buzzwords themselves are not as much of a problem as the way in which they are used. Articles are popping up all over the place with the promise of “Ways to Use Mobile Wallet in your Marketing” and “Is Mobile Wallet in Your Plans?” as if it’s something you can just buy and install, or hire an expert to implement, or assign to an intern.

Mobile Wallet isn’t a tactic. Mobile Wallet isn’t a channel. Mobile Wallet is a component of a marketing strategy.

We’ve been through this before. Marketers executing QR Code strategies. Agencies promising Twitter is the magic bullet. Designers promoting responsive design as the next standard. The run-of-the-mill marketers executed campaigns around these tactics and wondered why it didn’t succeed for them. The smart marketers found success because they didn’t base their campaigns on a delivery vehicle, they based the strategy on the experience it created for their customers.

As you are planning your strategy around how you will offer mobile wallet functionality to your customers, remember: Mobile Wallet isn’t a strategy, it’s an experience delivery vehicle.

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