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Stop Spewing Mobile Wallet BS

If I’ve learned anything about doing consumer research it’s this: You can’t ask consumers their opinions about things that they don’t know.

So, feel free to publicize your research about which mobile wallets are most popular with consumers, if you want, but I’m not buying any of it.


comScore recently conducted a study regarding consumers’ awareness of mobile wallets and found the following (chart pulled from a Venture Beat article):

According to the study, nearly half of all consumers (assuming the study was a study of all consumers) have used PayPal’s digital wallet. That would mean that pretty much everybody in the US who owns a smartphone has used PayPal’s digital wallet.

I can hear the PayPal people laughing at that all the way here on the other side of the continent.

I find it funny, too, because, until recently, PayPal didn’t even have a digital wallet. According to articles published last March, May 2012 was the expected launch date for the Paypal digital wallet. (p.s. I can’t find any articles that confirm that it was launched last May).


Well, hold on a second here. Maybe our terminology isn’t accurate.

Maybe Paypal has a digital wallet, but not a mobile wallet. Yes, that must be it.

But if that’s the case, then Amazon’s one-click buying should be considered a digital wallet, too. And since you can make P2P transactions from many banks’ online banking platforms, that’s kind of a digital wallet, too, no? But comScore didn’t ask about the awareness of either of those wallets.


If you’re confused about the difference between a digital and mobile wallet, or what a mobile wallet exactly is, welcome to the club. According to the Venture Beat article (citing the comScore study), less than half of the respondents really understand what a digital wallet is.

But, if that’s the case, then I have a question for Venture Beat: Why would you title the article “PayPal destroys Google Wallet, MasterCard, Square, and Visa in digital wallet study”?

Total BS. The comScore compared apples to vaporfruit, and VB — which acknowledged the consumer confusion — runs with a bogus headline.


Let’s take a look at some of the other numbers.

According to the comScore study, 1% of respondents use (or have used) the Lemon Wallet and 2% use LevelUp.

The companies, themselves, report quite different numbers.

A Mobile Commerce Today article from December 2012 stated that LevelUp had reached the 500k user mark. Meanwhile, a Bank Systems & Technology article from November 2012 said that Lemon Wallet had 2.5 million users. 

My calculator says the number of Lemon Wallet users are 5 times the number of LevelUp users. Yet the comScore study reports that LevelUp’s market penetration is double that of Lemon’s.

Maybe my calculator is broken.


What should we make of all this?

Simply, that the mobile wallet space is one messy pile of you-know-what at the moment, and that any claim about who’s winning or losing is: 1) bogus, and 2) the work of a fool.

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Get a complimentary copy of his latest research report, Technology Management Complexity: Drowning in a Sea of Technology Projects.

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  1. But seriously, who’s winning the mobile wallet race?

  2. Michaelian, Tom says:

    Spot on. You should be at the Smart Card Assn Payments Summit – lots of fodder about the future of EMV

    Tom Michaelian
    Sales Executive, Card Production Services
    Fiserv Output Solutions
    703-726-9052 (O). 703-835-2115 (C)

  3. Jim Wells says:

    Thanks for this posting Ron. Glad to know there are t least 2 of us annoyed by this incessant nattering on about mobile and digital payments. In the developing world, these wallets seek to solve a non-existent problem with an ill-defined product that has little or no value proposition, other than novelty. When exactly did it become so difficult to take a card out of an analog wallet anyway?

  4. I would have to say that it’s Salvatore Ferragamo. It’s a mobile wallet in that you take it where ever you go. Not sure it qualifies as a digital wallet, though. He charges $320 for his wallet at Bloomingdales.

    As far as I can tell, PayPal, Google, Lemon, and everybody else on that chart aren’t making diddly-squat from their wallets. :)

  5. The vernacular here is a major problem. What ComScore utterly fails to accomplish (which you hit well Ron) is the usage and adoption of these services. PayPal will dominate as it has a significant foothold in the digital commerce space, but Square is transacting to the tune of 60M transactions per month, with over 2M card readers sent as of Q2 2012 (so my figures are dated and probably very conservative).

  6. Is the work of a fool ever not bogus?

  7. Ron I loved the post. Best laugh I have had all month. Does that mean my life is really boring? The terminology is a mess. I research this stuff and really don’t know what a digital wallet is … no idea how to define that one. The mobile wallet is “cloudy with a chance of clearing” over the next few years. Thanks.

  8. When it’s my work. :)

  9. Walt: Spot on. My real beef is less with the comScore study (it is what it is) and more with the way the press (in this case, Venture Beat) uses the results of the study (and others like it). It’s little wonder that I have no respect for the TechCrunchs and Mashables of the world.

  10. I invented AsSwipe … Makes sense because every payment company is pulling digital wallets out of their asses. AsSwipe wil be ready in 2020 as part of the Bank 5.0 movement and available via the People of Walmart.

  11. Square offers a hardware payment solution to billers, not a mobile wallet solution to payers.

  12. All consumers struggle with abstractions. Asking consumers about some vague, new, strange concept yields almost nothing of value.

    The only way to gauge consumer interest in something is to put it in their hands, show them how it works, and ask them if they want it.

  13. robinbannks says:

    Numerous coffee spits. And Financial Brand is right.

  14. Good to know so many are interested and all have a sense of humor and good insight as well.

  15. Not true. While SQUARE started off with card acceptance dongle that plugged on to a smartphone a few years ago, it has indeed been offering a mobile wallet solution to payers for at least a year now. It’s called SQUARE WALLET (

  16. Well, who doesn’t have a mobile wallet project underway today then…

    I guess I must have been among the 92% that didn’t know Square had a wallet. It certainly not what they are known for.

  17. Lisa Kuhn Phillips says:

    Financial Brand is right on with the engagement piece for consumers first, before we start making up BIG DATA names for fintech wallets or purses.

    If Sir Clagett can come up with AsSwipe, then I’ll throw MEpurse in the hat too. Kinda like a Lady MacGyver E-purse, looks fashionable and does functional anywhere, anytime.

  18. Fragmentation is confusing as it gets for consumers. Mobile Wallets are like the bird family, they’re descended from dinosaurs, generally pretty fly and occasionally an Emu.

    The sheer variation at this point means the best solutions do one thing very very well, and very few are even close to replacing a card, let alone cash or a branch. The change in consumer habit is through natural selection more so than invention.

    It will take some time for the revolution.

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