Customers Aren't Adopting Digital Wallets

Beth Youra, Daniela Yu

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

The digital wallet is all the rage. Or is it?

Right now, U.S. consumers aren't that enthusiastic about digital wallets. But that hasn't stopped the major market players -- including Apple, Google and PayPal -- from moving full speed ahead, each offering its own product. Banks are jumping into the mix as well.

As the competition intensifies, providers of digital wallets -- technology that allows users to store credit and debit cards, cash, and loyalty cards and coupons to make electronic purchases using a digital device, most often a smartphone -- will need to convince more consumers to adopt and use their products. If they don't, they may be squeezed out of an already tight space.

Digital wallet providers may be making significant investments in their technology and advertising efforts, but they shouldn't overlook a crucial factor in attracting and retaining customers: engagement. Providers who fully engage their customers can realize a substantial return on their investment, Gallup analysis reveals.


FULLY ENGAGED customers are emotionally attached and rationally loyal. They'll go out of their way to locate a favored product or service, and they won't accept substitutes. True brand ambassadors, they are a company's most valuable and profitable customers.

INDIFFERENT customers are emotionally and rationally neutral. They have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward a company's product or service.

ACTIVELY DISENGAGED customers are emotionally detached from a company and its product or service. They will readily switch brands. If switching is difficult or impossible, they may become virulently antagonistic toward the company. Either way, they are always eager to tell others exactly how they feel.

Customers who are more engaged with their digital wallet are more likely to use it everywhere -- and every time -- the option is available. Three in 10 fully engaged customers used their digital wallet every time or almost every time they could in the past 30 days, compared with 12% of indifferent customers and only 2% of actively disengaged customers. Across all types of stores studied, fully engaged customers also used their digital wallet at least six times more often in the past 30 days than actively disengaged customers.

Engaged customers more likely to use a digital wallet every, everywhere

Customers who are engaged with a company become brand ambassadors, a finding that holds true across industries and countries. And digital wallet providers that have engaged their customers through other products and services have a built-in audience for their payment system. For example, nearly all Apple Passbook users who are fully engaged (96%) say they are very likely to start using Apple Pay -- Apple's digital wallet -- in the next 12 months. In contrast, users who are fully engaged with a competing digital wallet, such as Google Wallet or PayPal, are very unlikely to switch to Apple Pay and plan to stick with their existing product.

engaged customers: good prospects for a digital wallet

Banks are also offering digital wallets in an effort to provide their customers with financial management tools. The more engaged customers are with their primary bank, the more likely they are to feel comfortable using a digital wallet the bank offers, as Gallup's 2015 banking study shows. Sixteen percent of fully engaged banking customers are very comfortable using the digital wallet their primary bank offers, while 11% of actively disengaged customers feel the same way.

How to Engage Digital Wallet Users

Gallup has studied consumer attitudes and behaviors in hundreds of organizations, 60 industries and 60 countries. An in-depth exploration of the responses from more than 15 million customers reveals the elements that are most important to building and sustaining customer engagement. Digital wallet providers that create product and service values that align with these elements can emotionally engage their users and win a greater share of the market. Here are some ways to engage digital wallet users:

  • Make users feel special. Across all industries Gallup has studied, fully engaged customers buy more from their preferred company when that company makes them feel special -- even when they aren't first-class passengers or private banking customers. The need to feel special is universal, and digital wallet users are no exception. Companies that provide offers and discounts through digital wallets -- whether related to clothing, books or food -- must make these benefits unique and relevant to each user's preferences, purchasing power and past transaction history.
  • Make it easy to do business. Most digital wallet providers claim they provide convenience, so users don't need to carry multiple cards or remember their corresponding passwords or PINs. Gallup analysis shows that users don't buy this claim, however, suggesting that digital wallets don't yet meet customers' expectations for accessibility. Consumers want digital wallets to be easy to install, upgrade, learn and use. They also want easy access to their payment history and past transactions. Perhaps most of all, they want to forgo their multiple credit cards and checkbook to complete their transactions through one -- and only one -- digital wallet.
  • Be helpful. Helpful employees are one of the key elements in creating and sustaining customer engagement, as decades of Gallup research show. Even as technology proliferates, many companies and industries still heavily rely on people to provide a product or service, such as those in hospitality and healthcare. Of course, digital wallets aren't people, so this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, but users will likely expect their digital wallet to be of service to them, more so than a physical wallet. For example, users may want their digital wallet to help them find a nearby restaurant that offers the best sushi. They might expect their digital wallet to record all of their transactions for a month and then help them better understand and manage their spending. Or they may expect their digital wallet to alert them to potential fraud, such as a single transaction over $1,000. Providers will win more users if a product can serve as both a convenient method of payment and a financial assistant.

Ultimately, the digital wallet products that will win in the marketplace will do more than make users feel special -- or be helpful or easy to do business with. To increase customers' engagement with the product and win future business, digital wallet providers must consistently deliver on their brand promises at every customer touchpoint and interaction.