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Mobile wallets have always been a hard sell. In many countries, credit and debit cards work well enough that consumers don't want to learn a new way to pay.
But banks and technology companies are committed to bringing their wallet apps to market. In an effort to stay competitive, these companies have spent considerable effort to get their wallets to stand out not only against competitors, but against the compelling option to keep using cash and cards.
A Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy Note Edge smartphone running the Android mobile operating system is arranged for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, July 28, 2015. A researcher at a security firm revealed a hole in Android's source code that hackers can exploit, if they have a phone's number, with a text. Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg
Android Pay taps into Google's most creative asset
Last year, Google brought perhaps its most powerful marketing tool to the Android Pay mobile wallet: the Google Doodle.
The company's search engine is well known for replacing its logo with fanciful cartoons to celebrate holidays and other special events, and it brought the same treatment to the Android Pay wallet, which plays seasonal cartoons whenever a user completes a payment in-store.
This year, Google entered a marketing partnership with the Justice League film, gamifying its Android Pay doodle to urge shoppers to unlock representations of Batman, Wonder Woman and other heroes each time they pay.
A wallet-agnostic rewards strategy
This month, Chase for the first time has added mobile wallets as one of its rotating quarterly rewards categories, enabling its Chase Freedom credit card customers to earn 5% cash back on combined purchases up to $1,500 during the first three months of 2018, Chase said in a recent press release.
But the incentive isn't about promoting Chase Pay. To earn the rewards, it doesn’t matter if the transaction is handled by the bank's proprietary Chase Pay platform or Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay.
The promotion could provide some clues about consumers’ awareness of Chase Pay versus the three other wallets marketed by providers outside of the financial services industry, as Chase explores the mobile wallet's role with consumers.
But it could also wind up sidelining Chase Pay in favor of third-party wallets — which would still need to use the Chase Freedom card as a funding mechanism if the user wants to earn rewards.
Another way Chase is testing customers’ immediate interest in its mobile wallet is through Chase Pay Village, a pop-up retail zone operating in Manhattan through Jan. 7, 2018, where various merchants are providing deals for Chase Pay customers. Chase said the effort feeds its research into consumer perceptions of Chase Pay.
An employee demonstrates Samsung Pay using a Samsung Electronics Co. Galaxy S7 smartphone during a media event in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday, March 10, 2016. Samsung's latest Galaxy S7 smartphones will go on sale on March 11 in its latest attempt to breathe life into its premium line and wrest ascendancy back from Apple Inc. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg
Samsung offers double-dipping rewards
Last year, Samsung Pay launched a rewards program for U.S. consumers that allows them to earn points on both credit and debit card purchases — and has an emphasis on encouraging repeated use.
In marketing this service, Samsung suggested it allows consumers to double dip by earning Samsung Pay rewards on top of the rewards offered by the consumer's credit card issuer.
Samsung's program multiplies points earned based on how frequently the customer uses the mobile payments service, giving more frequent users higher multipliers.
Taking payments through the mirror
The San Francisco startup Oak Labs has a very inventive way of accepting mobile payments: It asks consumers to tap their wallet against a mirror.
Its Oak Checkout concept is designed to be used in dressing rooms, where shoppers can try on clothes and pay for them all at once.
Founded by former eBay executive Healey Cypher and colleagues, Oak Labs aims to wipe out the pain points that still exist in physical retail stores. Its interactive mirror serves as a live merchandise catalog, improving stores’ efficiency and reducing shoppers' various frustrations, according to Cypher.
In addition to handling payments, the mirror can also allow shoppers to pick different sizes and styles, just as they would be able to when shopping online; the system can then signal the shopper's choice to a store associate. In doing so, Oak Mirror reduces the average time spent in a fitting room by 40%, cutting overall waiting time for fitting rooms, Cypher said.
Through its app, Oak Labs supports a system for merchants to equip products with an RFID tag containing detailed product information, which appears in condensed form on the mirror when a customer wears it in a fitting room.
When they’re ready to pay, shoppers tap the items they want to purchase on the mirror’s display and hold their NFC-enabled payment device near the mirror to complete the transaction. San Francisco-based payments gateway provider DotDashPay provides the payments technology for Oak Mirror.
A Barclays Plc Barclaycard contactless payment machine is seen in a cafe at Dunham Massey in Cheshire, U.K., on Friday, Feb. 11, 2011. Barclays Plc, the first of BritainÕs biggest five banks to report annual earnings, may say profit before one-time gains advanced last year, helped by a decline in writedowns at its investment banking unit. Photographer: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg
A donkey that accepts payments
Barclaycard is notorious for its experiments with new form factors for mobile and contactless payments, and perhaps none is so bizarre as the payments-accepting donkey.
Real Donkeys, a donkey ride company that operates in Blackpool in the U.K., added Barclaycard contactless payment technology to one of its saddles in 2014.
The system let patrons purchase rides by tapping a contactless payment device against a saddle worn by a donkey named Dillon, according to an article in Travel Weekly. The company approached Barclaycard after it was forced to turn away prospective riders who did not have cash on hand.
The ill-fated Isis mobile wallet
The brains behind the Isis wallet may not have been able to predict that their brand would become affiliated with a violent militant group, but there's no excuse for Tappy.
In their efforts to relaunch the Isis wallet as "Softcard," the U.S. telcos behind the venture introduced the world to one of the creepiest mascots ever imagined. Tappy was a contactless card reader with human hands, giant human teeth and enormous dead eyes. One of its few commercials featured Tappy mouthing off to a conspicuously mute Rowdy Roddy Piper, in what might have been the pro wrestler's last acting role before he died.
Tappy was perhaps meant to be ironic, but it failed to save the mobile wallet from its inevitable demise.