Mobile Wallets Explained

What is a Mobile Wallet?

In general, the term “mobile wallet” (also referred to as “digital wallet,” “wallet passes,” “wallet card,” or “mobile wallet passes”) describes content or information in the form of a wallet item or pass stored in the Apple Wallet or Google Wallet apps. Think of it as the digital equivalent of all the everyday things included in a physical wallet, like loyalty cards, coupons, business cards, tickets, credit cards, and more.

Mobile wallets are rarely forgotten because they’re stored on your consumer’s phone. How many times have you gone to a store and forgotten the coupon you were saving or the loyalty card you just signed up for? They are also very effective and efficient for a business because a wallet pass can be easily created, managed, and updated, allowing a business to significantly reduce the cost of a traditional (physical) card program by 10x-25x.

How Do Mobile Wallets Work?

Mobile wallets let businesses create digital passes that can be stored directly on a customer’s mobile device, typically within the Apple Wallet or Google Wallet apps. These passes can contain a variety of information, such as loyalty cards, coupons, and tickets. Customers can then easily access and use these passes whenever they need them without the use of physical cards or printouts.

Apple Wallet and Google Wallet

Apple Wallet and Google Wallet, the two main mobile wallet platforms, are often referred to as mobile payment platforms. Both companies have made significant investments in their ecosystems over the past several years, most recently adding the ability to transact a payment using your phone.

Apple Wallet and Google Wallet act as a central repository and a go-to destination for any shopping needs. While there are some differences between them — such as the types of passes that can be created in each platform and how notifications are managed — both offer similar capabilities: the ability to store credit cards to make mobile payments and the ability to store non-payment items such as digital (movie/event) tickets, mobile loyalty cards, boarding passes and more.

Multiple wallet items, or passes, housed in each of these native app ecosystems organize and consolidate information and content for easy access anywhere and everywhere. That means there’s an opportunity for businesses and brands to leverage mobile payment ecosystems that already exist on iOS and Android phones, bypassing the need to download yet another app.

Benefits of Mobile Wallets

So why be part of this mobile payment ecosystem? While Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Samsung Pay have received much attention, the non-payment side is particularly compelling for most consumers. It has the ability to transform the physical billfold into a fully digital wallet, providing brands with an easy way to reach 100% of their customers on mobile. And according to recent research, consumers are more than interested; they’re ready.

For example, recent research shows that 67% of adult smartphone users want a digital loyalty card. In the same survey, 77% of respondents were interested in having expired coupons automatically updated to new offers on their phones.

Not fully convinced it’s time to join this digital payment revolution? Here are some other benefits of mobile wallets that are worth considering.

Gift Cards That Won’t Be Forgotten

Instead of sending a code that can get buried in an email inbox, send a gift card wallet pass via MMS or email. Configure your pass to your desire with fields that can be updated to reflect a customer’s current point/currency balance and then expire the pass once the amount has been fully used. Pair the pass with the location to remind your users to use their gift card when nearby.

Coupons — The Latest Deals at Your Fingertips

Send weekly coupons tailored to your customers. For example, send a “Buy a tin of tea, get one 50% off” message to customers who’ve previously purchased tea at your store. Update your pass every week with new offers for superior customer service — no need to delete and download a new pass every week.

Also, if desired, make it subtle. A change notification on the lock screen is not required, so you, the Marketer, can choose whether to inform users of a pass update.

Membership Cards — Elevating Customer Loyalty

Traditional plastic membership cards are easily lost or forgotten. However, with mobile wallet membership cards, you can ensure your program is always at your customers’ fingertips on their phones. Your brand and associated benefits are always visible and accessible, encouraging higher engagement with your loyalty plan.

Mobile wallet membership cards also give you a direct channel to your loyal customers. You can easily update the cards with the latest membership tiers, rewards, and exclusive offers.

Mobile Loyalty Programs — Next-Level Rewards

Notify users when they make it to the next level of your loyalty or rewards program. With updatable fields, you can change a user’s tier or status as they move up the ranks in your loyalty program.

When a customer hits the “Platinum” status, you can easily update their loyalty pass and issue a change notification.* Reward users when they reach the next tier with offers such as a free drink.

What Else Can a Mobile Wallet Do?

Mobile is where consumers are spending the majority of their time. And while apps can be highly effective, particularly with your highest-value customers, they can also be costly to get started and maintain. Mobile wallets reduce the investment hurdle for businesses, not only acting as a lightweight app but also delivering quick time to market.  A business can just create a targeted and highly effective program and/or campaign that solves a core customer need.

Businesses can interact with customers by using their favorite devices — their smartphones — all without needing an app. And when paired with an app, they can create a superior mobile engagement experience, providing additional convenience and flexibility.

Additionally, they can be used as a channel to acquire new app users. With the ability to take customers from the pass directly to an app download store, businesses and brands can look toward mobile wallets as a mechanism to nurture future loyalists, culminating with a branded app download.

What Makes Up a Mobile Wallet Pass?

The simplicity of the pass is one of its greatest appeals for a business. Let’s walk through a basic layout for both Apple Wallet and Google Wallet:

  • Strip image — a visual related to the message you’re communicating.
  • Barcode — add this feature if you have an item to redeem. 2D barcodes, including QR codes, are broadly supported.
  • Contact information — include items such as your business’ website, social details, email address, and/or phone number.
  • Notification setting — this allows you to send notifications to your customers’ lock screens to alert them to new offers, content, and more. Users are opted into mobile wallet pass notifications by default for both Apple Wallet and Google Wallet, but can choose to opt out.

Pass Types and Use Cases

There are literally dozens of use cases for mobile wallet items. They range from traditional loyalty cards and coupons to more innovative ways to reach consumers (sweepstakes entries and podcast reminders). Some examples include:

  • Loyalty cards
  • Loyalty rewards offer
  • Loyalty cards with cross promotions
  • Point cards
  • Sales/promo/coupon offers
  • Coupon redemptions
  • Geofence welcome messages
  • Geofence promotion/offer
  • Alerts, updates & reminders
  • App acquisition
  • Announcements & notifications
  • Sweepstakes & notifications
  • Exclusive offers, promotions, content
  • Exclusives by distribution channel(s)
  • Membership cards/”club” discounts
  • Giftcards

Apple Wallet and Google Wallet have various pass types available with different layout and text fields, so you can choose the one that best suits your use case.

Google Wallet Pass types are divided into five main categories [source]:

  • Retail (Loyalty cards, Offers, Gift cards)
  • Tickets (Event tickets, Boarding passes)
  • Access (Digital car keys, Campus ID cards, Corporate badge)
  • Health (Test records, Vaccine cards)
  • Generic (Parking passes, Library cards, Membership cards, Reservation confirmations and more)

Apple Wallet simply has five Pass types, namely: Boarding pass, Coupon, Event ticket, Generic and Store Card. [source]

Consumers Want Mobile Wallets

Consumer demand for mobile wallets is on the rise because of their convenience and flexibility. According to a recent Airship/Sapio Research survey, a significant portion of smartphone users are interested in using digital wallets for various purposes. Here’s a look at how mobile wallets are evolving.

Adoption Is High Among Younger Demographics

Mobile wallets have seen widespread adoption among younger generations, with Millennials and Gen Zers making up the largest user base. The Airship/Sapio Research survey shows that 73% of Gen Zers and 77% of Millennials use mobile wallets. In contrast, adoption rates among older demographics are lower, with 67% of Gen Xers and only 43% of Baby Boomers using digital wallets.

Coupons Used More Often, Drive In-Store Traffic

According to the same report mentioned above, respondents are using apps to simplify their lives. Many people forget to bring their paper coupons or accidentally let coupons expire or go unused. However, integrating coupons into mobile wallets seems to fix this issue. Over 80% of respondents said they use the coupons stored on their smartphones. That means consumers are more likely to use mobile wallet coupons because they’re easily accessible while shopping.

Consumers More Likely to Participate in Loyalty Programs With Mobile Wallets

Mobile wallets can help bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds. It’s common for people to forget digital loyalty cards at home or lose them entirely. However, digital wallets let consumers access their loyalty cards with a few taps on their smartphones. Our recent survey shows that 81% of respondents use their mobile phones for loyalty cards and coupons. Because mobile wallets put loyalty cards directly on customers’ phones, they’re more likely to remember and use them.

How Airship Can Solve Your Mobile Wallet Issues

Passes are typically created through software solutions, like Airship’s Mobile Wallet Solution. The benefits of our mobile wallet software solution include:

  • Simplify the creation and management of passes
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest mobile wallet pass enhancements from platforms, incl. Apple Wallet and Google Wallet
  • Provide easy-to-digest content with clickable links — such as URLs, locations, and phone numbers — that create ongoing interaction and engagement
  • Adaptive Links — Send one adaptive wallet pass download link that will work for both Apple Wallet and Google Wallet, no need to send two links in email or SMS to cover both kinds of device
  • Dynamic Pass Management — Dynamically update passes and send notifications in real-time
  • Persistent Mobile Communication Channel — Once passes are downloaded, content and updates can be made on the same pass over time. This gives marketers an opportunity to continuously launch new campaigns and offers on existing passes
  • Personalized Pass Creation En Masse — Create and customize tens of thousands of passes at scale directly in the UI (user interface) —  without the need for developers or API
  • Integrate your program with other transactional systems such as POS (point of sale systems). Track and validate barcodes, coupon codes, and more to manage redemption
  • Segmentation — Send pass updates only to specific users, based on data you’ve populated in the background

Innovative Examples

While passes are a great fit for developing mobile engagement programs for coupons, loyalty cards, etc., that hasn’t stopped businesses and brands from thinking outside of the box. The examples below showcase the creativity of companies leveraging this technology in groundbreaking ways:

To get a comprehensive guide to how you can use mobile wallets to advance your business goals, check out our Inspiration Guide.

Get Started Today!

Want to learn more about how Mobile Wallet can help you connect with customers at each stage of the customer lifecycle? Contact us today, and let’s talk!

Ready to 
Get Started? 

Your supercharged customer engagement strategy starts here