In an increasingly mobile society, the future success of credit unions hinges on the ability to develop and deploy a robust mobile strategy that meets the needs of current members, while attracting future generations. Pressure from third-party developers like Google and ISIS, coupled with member demand for more-sophisticated mobile payment tools, has created a sense of urgency surrounding the development and deployment of mobile wallets.
As financial institutions race to find a solution, credit unions have a unique opportunity to take control and in a collaborative effort, launch a white-labeled mobile wallet that not only meets the needs of their members, but also ensures the long-term success of the credit union movement.
Collaboration vs. Third Parties
A mobile wallet will only be successful if members adopt and consistently use the app to conduct daily transactions. Ultimately, merchants will play a critical role in the success or demise of each mobile wallet solution. Forging mutually beneficial relationships with merchants, navigating the various merchant requirements including point-of-sale technology preferences and negotiating pricing agreements can be a daunting, if not impossible, feat for an individual credit union to accomplish, regardless of its size or resources.
This is one of the primary reasons early entrants into the mobile wallet market have for the most part been third parties and not financial institutions. This challenge, however, presents credit unions with an opportunity to collaboratively launch one mobile payments platform, collectively partner with merchants, and ultimately deploy a solution that meets the immediate demands of members, and the long-term needs of the credit union industry as a whole.
Additionally, credit unions should aggregate to avoid the defragmentation that comes from credit unions choosing different solutions. Collaborating behind a standard gives merchants a reason to work solely with one solution provider, and since collaboration fosters adoption, if a common solution gains traction among merchants, it allows for deployment to go quickly. For example, merchants won’t have to build multiple point-of-sale payment acceptance systems in order to integrate into a mobile wallet solution.
Collaborate—or Pay the Price
Credit unions that choose not to join forces will pay a much higher price than if they combined volume with their peers to receive better pricing. If a credit union chooses a third-party wallet, it will have to coordinate integration with all the vendors involved, such as Internet and mobile banking providers, which can be costly.
Since many credit unions have limited negotiating power with their vendors, collaborating on a single wallet platform will add volume and demand, giving those vendors a reason to provide easy integration at a reasonable price. Conversely, if every credit union were to request 10 different solutions, vendors wouldn’t pick any of them and would wait until the market shakes out and the winner emerges.
Timing is Everything
Mobile wallets first emerged eight years ago, gaining a lot of hype and each claiming to be the “winning mobile solution”; most of those companies are now out of business. Three years ago the movement began to make strides in the financial institution market, along with many false starts and failed solutions.
Finally, consumers are accepting mobile wallets; there is already traction from such large companies—like Google and PayPal—that give consumers payment choices in many locations. For instance, Starbucks mobile payments have been adopted by 15% of all U.S. in-store customers, including all in-store purchases made by customers at U.S.-located Starbucks locations.
Growing customer adoption and heightened traction between merchants and vendors show that the mobile wallet is meaningful—and all point to 2014 being the opportune time for credit unions to collaborate under one mobile wallet solution. Credit unions are in the unique position to make a timely and direct move into the mobile wallet market, and to do so with the volumes that will set new standards for financial services. Plan to take advantage of this unique opportunity in the new year.