Earlier this year, tech experts who talked with CMO.com writers predicted that 2013 would see progress on the digital wallet front. This digitalwalletprogress was expected to be especially true for marketers who wanted to set up a digital loyalty program through a smart app. Consumers would be able to take out their smartphones and use apps to accrue points or rewards and then apply them to product purchases in the future. In a surprising turn, consumers seem to be ahead of retailers on this front.

At least 83% of consumers are familiar with the concept of virtual wallets. To date, 58% say they have used a mobile app from their bank – a form of virtual wallets. Only 50% are relying on their bank’s mobile website so it seems that consumers prefer the app approach.

Retailers are gradually teaming up with large vendors that have rolled out their branded virtual wallet apps. Consumers have made the following vendors especially popular:

  • Paypal 37%
  • Mint 11%
  • Turbotax 9%
  • Square 8%
  • Google wallet 7%

Consumers are growing more comfortable paying bills with their smartphones (42%). They are also buying items like meals using pre-paid card apps from restaurants (34%) or purchasing tickets for movies and concerts with a virtual wallet (37%).

Some analysts believe retailers are lagging in developing their systems to accept virtual payments at the register. Once they put this technology in place, it will also be easier for them to add bonus or other points to customer accounts. These types of rewards programs, especially when tied to virtual wallets, should  build loyalty.

Consumers are signaling their acceptance of this transition but analysts warn that financial companies and others in the industry must maintain their integrity and build consumer trust with respect to handling their money.

If you’re a traditional or online marketer, have you experimented with building rewards programs through a virtual wallet?

[Sources: Greengard, Sam. 13 Major Marketing Trends for 2013. CMO.com. 8 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013; Heine, Christopher. Banking Mobile Apps. Adweek.com. 11 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013]