Mobile Wallets: What’s The Value Proposition?

Mobile Payments Today reported on a Finextra study of banks’ mobile wallet plans. Regarding mobile payments, the study found that:

“81% of banks are looking to add value beyond the transaction, including providing relevant offers to consumers at the point of sale.”

My take: Add value to whom?

To consumers? Really? You’ve got research that shows consumers want more offers thrown at them?

Does your research also show that consumers want to walk down a busy city street and have offers popping up on their mobile devices as they approach every friggin’ store on the block?

Oh, I see…your research shows that consumers want “more relevant” offers.

Good luck with that. Relevance is a slippery notion. Many marketers suffer from delusions of relevance. Relevance can’t be quantified or measured, it’s highly subjective, and worse, it’s a transient condition.

If the marketers who sell a particular product can’t figure out what’s relevant to a particular consumer, how is a banker supposed to figure it out?

Oh, I see…you say it’s about providing relevant offers at the point of sale?

So when I’m at the register at Starbucks paying for my Venti Skinny Half-Caf Ristretto Macchiato-style Americano, you’re going to hit me with an offer for a large coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts? Or did you mean that you’ll offer me a nickel off a muffin (right after the barista, who knows me cuz’ I’m there 10 times a week, offers me the muffin he knows I always get)?


If you thought that the financial crisis brought bankers to their senses, you were wrong. Turns out that many are still living in la-la-land.

If they think that consumers will adopt their mobile wallets, and make mobile payments with them, because of the “value added” of receiving offers, I have ocean-front property in Kansas to sell them.

The “value” in providing offers through mobile wallets (and at the point of sale during a mobile payment) is to the merchant, not the consumer.

It’s the promise of helping merchants and retailers reach prospects (or even customers) in a more efficient and effective manner than they can today.


The dilemma for banks (and credit unions) is that the “value” to consumers regarding offers is in having the FI (through a mechanism like a mobile wallet) limit, or filter, the number of offers the consumer receives.

That’s what consumers really want. Not more, but less offers. Somebody to intercept the offer and say “oh no, not another offer from a nail salon — the last thing Ron needs!”

But who’s going to pay for that?

Consumers aren’t going to pay banks to get fewer, albeit more relevant, offers.

It’s not clear that consumers really want to pay banks for anything (and if banks do charge for something, you can be sure ol’ Dick Durbin will come running in screaming for regulatory action).


The value proposition of the traditional checking account was “a safe and convenient place to park your money until you needed it.”  The rise of the debit card was fueled by a value proposition that promised “a more convenient way to make a payment.”

The value proposition of the so-called mobile wallet — whatever that means, considering there’s no consensus on its definition — isn’t clear just yet. I wouldn’t bet my money on it being “an even more convenient way to make a payment.” And I sure as hell wouldn’t bet on it being “a way to get more relevant offers.” 

No, my money is on “helping consumers make smarter decisions about their finances and spending.” (This is why the new basis of competition is performance).

The question that bankers should be addressing is “how do we help our customers make better decisions?” and not “what should we put in our mobile wallet if we build one?”

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