Mobile Payments Reward Companies’ Strengths

The future of mobile wallets is still anyone’s race. From competing technologies to inconsistent terminologies, no single company or standard has yet to emerge as a clear winner. And the stakes continue to climb — Forrester Research predicts U.S. mobile payments will reach $90 billion by 2017, compared to $12.8 billion last year. Amid uncertainty, best-in-class marketers are preparing for the day when mobile money goes mainstream.

Planning across devices, platforms and properties

Mobile continues to challenge even companies born digital such as Zynga and Facebook. Some of the most successful mobile payment strategies actually come from established retailers. Sephora, the world’s largest retailer of fragrances and beauty products, views mobile as one component of its customers’ entire shopping experience. Instead of a singular focus on transactions via smartphones or tablets, the company sought to use mobile payments as a way to unify its brand across all devices, online properties and retail stores.

Using familiarity to build trust with customers

One of Sephora’s big plays into mobile payments was its app launch via Apple Passbook. The company made efforts to seamlessly connect its ongoing customer experiences to the new mobile wallet. Instead of making customers learn something entirely new for Passbook, Sephora provided support for its existing Beauty Insider program and customer gift cards. This brought a familiar interaction to consumers and allowed them to begin using the app for tasks they previously conducted in-store or online. This level of comfort also helped deepen relationships and build greater trust between Sephora and its customers.

Instead of just providing a plastic card used occasionally at checkout, Sephora’s Beauty Insider program connects constantly with customers about points and product redemptions earned. In 2012, Sephora’s total mobile orders increased by 167 percent. Sephora also issued more than 400,000 new Beauty Insider passes in the app’s first 90 days and more than 1.1 million app downloads have been completed. Sephora’s program demonstrates how mobile, Web and in-store interactions can all be part of the same connected customer experience.

Understanding the customer’s context

Sephora demonstrates how retailers can use mobile wallets to take advantage of the ways consumers use specific devices for specific scenarios in specific locations, while improving customer service. It also gives marketers a clearer view about what drives a customer toward a purchase. Various gaming and reward techniques can be used to strategically develop and nurture customer relationships.

Build from what works

Marketers who prepare and organize better than their competition will profit the most from mobile wallets. For many businesses this will require building their efforts in areas that already work well. From supply chain to low prices to customer service, each business has unique qualities. Marketers should always work to integrate these strengths into their mobile payment program as a natural extension of the brand experience.

Well-planned, well-designed mobile wallets can pay off the chain of interactions between brands and customers. Regardless of the technology behind a transaction, an effective mobile payments strategy should help foster deeper engagement, acquire new customers, and enhance the overall customer experience.