BALTIMORE — Buckle up because big changes are heading your way, agreed speakers at a NACHA panel Tuesday on mobile wallets, a topic that still creates more buzz than it does transactions.
But that may be changing. "We will see more changes in payments in the next five years than we saw in the prior 25," predicted Chris Cox, a vice president with First Data.
George Peabody, an analyst with Mercator Advisory Group, said, “It will take years for mobile wallets to reach critical mass -- but it will come in 2016."
Robert Schlaff, a Citi executive, stressed that mobile wallets already are transforming large swathes of the developing world – he pointed to Kenya where digital wallet adoption now stands at 60% of the adult population.
He left little doubt that, in Citi's view, that same large adoption is heading to these shores but key will be creating a product that is easy to use and that offers substantial improvements over classic leather wallets.
Cox agreed with that: "Digital wallets will let you do much more than you could with leather wallets."
One takeaway from Citi, per Schlaff, is that succeeding in wallets requires recognizing that probably not one size fits all: "Different market segments require different wallets – it's about the consumer," he said.
Another takeaway: wallets are about much more than transactions. Schlaff shared a scenario from Google where a consumer, carrying a Google Wallet-powered phone from Citi, would use the phone to search for a restaurant, he would read a Zagat review (owned by Google), he would check for any deals from Google Offers, and then he might decide where to eat.
"It is about providing end-to-end experience," said Schlaff.