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How security assurance could boost the mobile wallet

27/01/2015

The use of ever more mobile and sophisticated technology to pay for goods and services has been a major feature of modern life, but issues of security have often been a stumbling block that has held back the adoption of such technology.

As a result, the populations of countries like the UK and other nations with regular access to the web, smartphones, chip-and-pin cards and contactless payments is split; to some, this is an exciting brave new world in which ordering and paying for items can be done anytime and anywhere, completed swiftly and conveniently and possible through a variety of means. 

To others, however, these are innovations to fear, with all kinds of murky possibilities for hackers, fraudsters and thieves. After all, security breaches are an everyday news feature, so many will feel they are justified in being cautious.

A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the use of the 'mobile wallet' has explored this contrast and has found a key point is that for many people there is a distinct tension; a large number of consumers can see the appeal of being able to use a smartphone for all kinds of transactions and enjoy the convenience that comes with it, but worry about security.

Its polling found everyone knows about at least one mobile wallet application, namely paypal, with 83 per cent of respondents using it - although many did not make any distinction between PayPal and PayPal mobile. Smaller numbers knew about other applications on offer, like the Google Wallet (50 per cent) or the Starbucks Wallet (44 per cent). However, usage of these other electronic facilities is lower, with just 15 per cent actually adopting the Starbucks app and Google on nine per cent.

What was clearest from the survey, however, was that fewer than half of consumers (45 per cent) felt comfortable with conducting financial transactions with a mobile wallet, particularly among those aged over 60. However, a majority (58 per cent) of those in the 18-29 age group would transfer money to another individual via a mobile wallet.

Even so, this kind of transaction - the sort banks have made possible through the Paym system since April 2014 - represents the current high water mark of likely usage. For instance, only 24 per cent would withdraw cash from funds stored on a phone, while only 17 per cent would want to store funds on the phone itself. One consumer asked what would happen if everyone had money on their phone and their handset was stolen, the issue being whether this money could be retrieved and returned to its rightful owner.

This means there is a very clear challenge for digital marketers and an obvious measure of success; raising the number of people who feel safe to make money transfers this way is critical. In the short-term, greater assurance that the security systems deployed are genuinely safe, communicated well to the older demographics, may make the greatest impact, but on a generational level the growth of use by young people will have the most effect in the long run. 

Indeed, it may be that to a future generation using smartphones to make transactions will be as normal as using a card and pin number to draw cash at an ATM is today. The key is to ensure both that the security is in place, and to communicate this fact effectively.

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