7 inventive mobile wallet incentives

  • December 23 2016, 9:05am EST
Most consumers aren't rushing to throw out their plastic cards in favor of mobile wallets, so the banks and tech companies behind payment apps have to get creative. Here are some of the most noteworthy promotions.

Most consumers aren't rushing to throw out their plastic cards in favor of mobile wallets, so the banks and tech companies behind payment apps have to get creative. Here are some of the most noteworthy promotions.

Samsung gets in your face

Samsung has not only offered new customers coupons and discounts for using its mobile wallet; it also stood by to watch customers sign up. A year ago, the tech giant deployed 50 marketing teams to shopping malls across the U.S., dangling a "free gift" of up to $25 for anyone who activates Samsung Pay with a credit or debit card on the spot, with the assistance of Samsung representatives.

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Google doodle

In addition to traditional offers and discounts, 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 now the same treatment has come to the Android Pay wallet. Starting on Halloween, Google started playing holiday-themed cartoons whenever a user completes a payment in-store.

Drive-by marketing

The runaway success Uber has enjoyed in the ride-sharing market has payment companies clamoring to partner with it — hoping to become the default payment method for passengers. Android Pay, American Express and Visa are among the companies that created offers tied to consumers' Uber activity.

Frequent buyers

Another Samsung tactic is applying rewards based on how frequently consumers use its mobile wallet. All users start in the “silver” status tier. After using Samsung Pay for five transactions in one month they achieve “gold status,” in which they earn twice the points on each transaction. From there it’s 20 monthly transactions to Platinum, which earns triple points; and 30 to Blue, which earns quadruple. Samsung's rewards are independent from the rewards attached to the cards linked to Samsung Pay, meaning shoppers can "double dip" by also earning points from their card's issuer for the same purchase.

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Square City

On the merchant side, Square Inc. spent six weeks in Portland, Ore. — a city with a strong existing base of micro-merchants — this summer to transform it into one of the company's top U.S. markets in total Apple Pay transactions conducted with its card readers. A craft-brew purveyor, a cupcake maker, a local coffee store and two cafes were among Portland businesses accepting Square that saw the most mobile wallet transactions during the local marketing campaign, which ended in June, Square said. Among Square’s users who paid with a mobile wallet during the local marketing push, 73% left a tip, compared with 71% who left a tip when using an EMV-enabled chip card and 67% who left a tip when paying with a magnetic-stripe card.

Apple's belated marketing push

Apple doesn't often rely on traditional sales and discounts; the company famously shunned Black Friday in the past. But in a promotion that spanned two continents, Apple in July began offering an incentive to those who enrolled with Apple Pay at one of its 300 stores in the U.S. and U.K. Though this would seem to be a major global promotion, what's surprising is how conservative the offer actually is. Signing up and making an Apple Pay purchase on the spot gets Apple customers an iTunes gift card loaded with just $5 (or £5). Perhaps Apple knows that this is the only push its customers need to try a new mobile wallet, but it's not guaranteed to provide repeat use.

Potty payments

PayPal is focusing its attention on people who shop from the privacy of their bathrooms. Ahead of this year's holiday shopping season, PayPal surveyed 1,000 consumers between the ages of 18 and 55 to determine their interest in and intentions to shop through mobile devices during the holidays. Those intentions included shopping while sitting on the toilet — a habit that 22% of consumers say they engage in — while another 34% will shop in their bed for a spouse or partner who is sleeping right next to them at the time.