Despite the enormous upside, mobile wallet adoption rates remain relatively low, persistently underperforming expectations.

Security concerns are one barrier to adoption, but lack of knowledge about how digital wallets work and a perception that there are no significant benefits to using mobile wallets instead of debit or credit cards are also obstacles to adoption.

So how can institutions like banks and credit unions, that want to position themselves for the coming digital wallet boom demonstrate the product’s value to consumers? Peer-to-peer payments can be the gateway that leads customers inexorably to wider use of the mobile wallet. Tech-savvy institutions can promote peer-to-peer payment offerings today to pave the way for broader mobile wallet use tomorrow.

An average of 25% of consumer payments are already settled without cash worldwide, and in tech-forward countries like Sweden, only 20% of consumer payments are currently made using cash. The benefits of going cashless are obvious, with safety and convenience topping the list. Younger consumers, who grew up using digital payment methods, seem eager to make the transition.

Institutions that offer easy peer-to-peer payments can foster the change by making it simpler for customers to split restaurant checks with friends, enable roommates to settle joint bills in an instant and allow private citizens to buy and sell goods and services from one another using digital peer-to-peer payments instead of making a trip to the ATM or writing a personal check.

Once consumers begin to routinely use peer-to-peer payments to settle personal debts to friends, family members and others, using a mobile wallet to make payments in stores, restaurants and other merchant locations is a logical extension of that process. The comfort level will increase as security concerns are allayed, and consumers will naturally start to appreciate the convenience and other benefits.

When consumers begin using digital wallets for peer-to-peer payments as well as the type of outlays now covered by credit cards and checks, institutions can tap into that rich data stream to customize offers, formulate guidance and otherwise proactively assist consumers with their financial needs. But digital payment adoption is the first step, and peer-to-peer payments can help consumers move in that direction.

Justin Benson is CEO of Spreedly.