Marketing That Matters: Mobile Payments go Mainstream

Can mobile payments drive consumer engagement?

Mobile payments have undoubtedly emerged as one of the most intriguing technologies to penetrate the marketing world…but how can they help drive consumer engagement – is ease of purchase really enough of an incentive?

As mobile payments go mainstream, we took some time to explore what this means for the promotional marketing industry and the brands who are already experimenting

The facts you need to know

Apple and Android are at it again

Following Apple’s breakthrough in beacon technology, it’s no surprise they’re also leading the way in mobile payments.

Apple Pay, designed to enable iPhone users to pay by swiping their device, launched in the UK in July 2015. However this was swiftly followed by the arrival of Google’s Android Pay in May 2016, while Samsung Pay is due to launch in the UK any day.

Mobile payments (or mobile wallets) are becoming widespread, bringing with them a number of opportunities for brands. In essence, they store a digital copy of a consumer’s credit or debit card on the user’s phone, without storing the credit card details itself.

Instead, mobile payments keep a secure digital token. Each payment then creates a unique transaction token, which means that cards can’t be cloned or stolen.

With Apple Pay, users can verify their ID with their thumbprint to unlock the phone and make the payment. With Android Pay, users enter a PIN. Both technologies work with any retailers who have NFC contactless readers in-store, and the technology is designed for small transactions up to £30.

Loyalty schemes become more attractive

Mobile payments are designed to make the consumer shopping experience faster and more seamless. Importantly, the three major mobile payments incorporate loyalty capabilities into their platforms too.

This means consumers can also store multiple loyalty cards – think Tesco ClubCard, Nectar, M&S Sparks, for example – within the app, seamlessly interacting with the brand as they shop.

Some companies have also spotted an opportunity to create branded mobile payment technology. 

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Tesco has developed a branded mobile payment offering

In August 2016, Tesco launched its own mobile payment system, called PayQwiq.

It works in the same way as its competitors, allowing shoppers to connect debit and credit cards to the PayQwiq app and pay for items on mobile by scanning QR codes that are displayed on-screen.

However it only works at Tesco and is currently only available to shoppers at a handful of stores, although it is due to roll out across the UK imminently. The maximum payment limit is £400.

Customer insight had shown that a significant number of Tesco customers might be missing out on their loyalty benefits. PayQwiq offered a solution to this challenge, combining a faster way to pay with easy access to instant and personalised loyalty rewards. Shoppers using PayQwiq no longer have to scan their loyalty card separately to collect their ClubCard points. Bingo.

Paying by smartphone means real-time data

Data is king, and mobile payments offer a wealth of customer data by collecting detailed information relating to each product purchased. While a consumer’s bank will know that they spent £12 at a restaurant at a certain time and date, for example, a retailer-connected payment app will know that a classic pizza and a small glass of Merlot were consumed.

It’s a hugely valuable source of customer insight, and it’s real-time!

Yoyo Wallet is playing the loyalty card

Yoyo Wallet is one company that spotted the opportunity. Its technology combines a mobile payment system with loyalty capability, providing a marketing platform for retailers that enables digital customer engagement in-store.

The company processes over 200,000 monthly transactions in the UK. YoYo Wallet also tapped into the potential of brands using personalised in-app messages and push notifications to help with its consumer engagement. 

“When people pay using mobile, retailers and brands can take advantage of the insight they have about these consumers and subsequently send personalised in-app messages, push notifications and emails. In effect, it turns their phone into a powerful marketing channel.”

Alain Falys

CEO and co-founder, YoYo Wallet

By combining mobile payment apps with targeted offers and discounts, as well as integrated loyalty schemes, consumers have a compelling reason to pay by mobile. It’s win-win.

How Starbucks got it right

Starbucks is one of the pioneers of mobile payments. It launched its mobile payment app in the UK in 2012, via the My Starbucks Rewards mobile app.

The coffee chain can track consumer purchases and gather consumer spending data. The app also supports Apple Pay, allowing consumers to top up their balance in this way. The attraction of the app is combining rewards, payment and information all in one place is what has made it a hit with consumers.

“We believe the success of mobile payment is making it easy and fast for customers, and the Starbucks Mobile app does that, with the added benefit of combining rewards, payment and information in one place for our customers. Customer focus is the key to adoption and we are seeing that in growth in use in our stores.” 
Ian Cranna

Vice-president for marketing and category
Starbucks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

Consumer behaviour is changing

Visa’s Digital Payments Study in October 2016 revealed that:

  • 54% of consumers surveyed regularly use a mobile device to make payments, compared to 18% in 2015.
  • Nearly three quarters of respondents (74%) in the UK said they regularly use their smartphones to make payments.
  • More than half of these people use their device to transfer money to friends and family (59%) and just under half use it to buy take-away meals (45%).


The time is right for brands to explore the possibilities to add value via this new wave of technology – particularly when it comes to sales promotions. Alongside other emerging technologies, such as 3D printing, mobile payment presents sizable opportunities for brands to better engage with consumers, but it’s down to brands themselves to unearth their potential.

There is no one size fits all and technology is not a golden bullet. It is an enabler.

The art of sales promotion is still rooted in creativity and audience insight. But technology can help you to realise new ideas and bring them alive.

And you have to be in it to win it.

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