PayPal and Apple are well positioned as the mobile wallet race shifts from pure payments to broader services such as marketing and aggregation, according to Forrester Research.
While Apple and PayPal have challenges, their rapid support of new technology, open development strategy and large existing client rosters place those two companies in a superior position to offer a range of mobile services, said Forrester analyst Thomas Husson, who recently finished research on the mobile wallet space.
"There's been a lot of emphasis on the payment component of the wallet but it's only the first step of what will be a differentiating factor going forward," Husson said. "You have to offer value to consumers and that doesnt come from the payment."
The next phase will have a greater emphasis on loyalty, rewards, gift cards and coupons, he said, adding Apple and PayPal are also well positioned to aggregate these services from multiple providers.
Apple Pay's success comes in spite of its simplicity. Unlike most other mobile wallets, it does not have an embedded loyalty component or any way for merchants to use the wallet to improve their relationship with the consumer. And aside from its security, the wallet also offers little incentive to the consumer.
PayPal's mobile app is a bit more fleshed out, but in many stores its payment procedure is a simple card swipe.
Thus, added services are necessary to compel consumers to change their behavior, said Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst and consultant at Double Diamond Payments Research.
"For most merchants, tap-and-go payments have been a flop for more than a decade," Oglesby said. "For consumers, the way they pay is habitual and automatic, like a tobacco habit. People quit smoking when they have a major impetus, like having a baby or a heart attack. What's the major impetus to quit using cards?"
PayPal's strengths include its 162 million active digital wallets and $46 billion in mobile payments volume in 2014up 68% over 2013; as well as its open API technology development model, Husson said. Apple benefits from its 850 million iTunes accounts that are already connected to credit cards, the company's wealth and its influential technology.
"PayPal is more of a platform play where it embeds services inside its API," Husson said. "That is one way to build trust and to be well-positioned between consumers and merchants."
While Apple Pay doesn't add enough value now for merchants, and is a U.S.-only product, updates to Apple Pay should limit those shortcomings, Husson said.
Among other mobile wallet providers, Google has the benefit of Android's global dominance as a smartphone operating system, but it lacks the ability to lure merchants and financial institutions, Husson said.
And while banks are encouraged to set up their own mobile wallets to counter or to complement Apple Pay, Husson said banks typically lack the agility, business technology and scale for such moves.
Other contenders such as Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon are not as well-positioned to disrupt the payments market, Husson said. Alipay, which has Alibaba's backing, possesses a large enough digital to be a major mobile wallet player, particularly in Asia, Husson said.
Among merchant-specific mobile wallets, Starbucks enjoys success within its own stores but does not aggregate offerings from other brands, said Husson.
Starbucks' success fits in with the future trend of broadening mobile payment services beyond payments, Oglesby said, adding the model can be replicated.
"Starbucks is far more than a payments program. It's an embedded loyalty program that gets consumers to communicate and interact with Starbucks on an ongoing basis about where they are and about what kinds of drinks they like," Oglesby said. "It gets them to pre-purchase their coffee and it rewards them for their loyalty. That's the program that other merchants want to copy."
Walmart, Target and other retailers are driving the Merchant Customer Exchange, which is building the CurrentC wallet. While CurrentC merchants are already fighting Apple Pay, the product has not launched and it's too early to predict if it will be a success, Husson noted.
Mobile operators are also active globally in building mobile wallets, though they have not been widely successful, Husson said. In the U.S., Softcard, which is backed by T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, has made marketing partnerships a large part of its strategy. But Softcard struggled with its branding, recently downsized, and faces the prospect of being acquired by a rival.
"If you put aside emerging markets where telcos play a different role, I don't think there is any success story with telcos in developed countries forming a mobile payments play," Husson said.