How ApplePay missed the mark – a new vision for digital wallets


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If you were asked to name a digital wallet, ApplePay or GooglePay, or perhaps a bitcoin wallet may come to mind. Something synonymous with digital payments.

But would you consider them as part of a martech stack? Likely not.

It might be worth noting Tim Cook’s original vision for what we now know as ApplePay.

Replacing the overstuffed leather version our grandparents used to carry around, it would be the force to digitize everything from your ID and credit cards, to your discount club membership and all those loyalty punch cards you collect. It would be a sleek model – user friendly, discreet and oh so intelligent.

But somewhere in the race to digitize, Apple (and soon Google and others) lost sight of this vision. The tech titans have become so focused on enablement –the transformation of physical credit cards into their digital counterparts–that they’re missing the big opportunity. These wallets can function not just as payment facilitators but as dynamic platforms that exchange secure data in order to reach and retain customers with timely, relevant offers and opportunities.

Imagine a day when every card you own – from payments to membership and loyalty – connects at the backend with the others you own, communicating deals, access and membership between them. Gone are the days those membership perks of your Visa or AmEx sit unused. Your digital wallet offers them to you in real time when you engage with the brand, whether it’s in the store, stadium or venue, or online.

This approach taps into the emotional component of consumer purchasing behavior, transforming the digital wallet into a powerful portal for customer engagement and retention, with applications across the full marketing funnel. And it’s a vision that is closer than you might think.

Learning from retail media

Consider the fast rise of retail media in recent years, and why it is such an exciting opportunity.

Platforms like Amazon, Walmart, and Target harness the attention of customers when they are already in a purchasing mindset. As customers search for items, being served a relevant ad in that moment is powerful because it aligns with their immediate buying intent. The consumer is in the right frame of mind, and the retailer understands their current needs based on search queries.

This principle can be directly applied to the use of digital wallets.

Picture a customer browsing in a retail shop for earrings. They receive a phone notification about a timely deal – perhaps a ‘buy 2, get 1 free’ offer on earring studs. This isn’t just a promotion; it’s an engagement strategy that leverages the customer’s current interest and location. Similarly, consider a coffee enthusiast passing by a local cafe at 8 AM. A geo-targeted discount notification from their phones’ wallet about the seasonal blend latte doesn’t just grab their attention in a timely manner. It also enhances their connection with the brand.

The same strategy can be applied in a sports arena. A fan walking past a merchandise stand could receive a personalized discount, directly linked to their interests and current location. These moments create a personalized shopping experience, rather than an unwelcome or ignored intrusion of poorly timed marketing techniques–whether email or text blasts.

The future of it all

The future of digital wallets, and marketing in general, lies in this nuanced approach to customer interaction. By leveraging data and contextual cues, businesses can deploy engagement and loyalty strategies that better capture mindshare for their brand . This is about a continued evolution away from invasive marketing, to a cookieless world where marketers create meaningful, timely and opted-in connections that resonate with consumers’ current needs and desires.

As we continue to navigate the digital transformation of all corners of our world, it’s crucial to remember that technology should not just enable but also engage. Businesses have the opportunity to create more meaningful, lasting relationships with their customers. It’s a shift from mere convenience to true engagement that isn’t just beneficial – it’s essential.

Louis Lombardi
Louis Lombardi is the CEO for The Wallet Group. Lombardi has spent his 18+ year career innovating within the technology and marketing sectors, having previously served as CEO at NuCitrus, and Founder of Insider Data 360. Currently, he's helping reshape the lead generation and customer retention landscape by empowering businesses, ranging from startups to national accounts, with advanced digital wallet platforms.


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