May 20, 2015

“The Massive Opportunity” for Mobile Wallets: An Interview with Jack Philbin, CEO, Vibes

On May 13, SIM Partners and Vibes announced a groundbreaking relationship that capitalizes on the popularity of local search and the growth of mobile wallets. By integrating Vibes Mobile wallet campaigns with the SIM Partners Velocity local marketing platform, SIM Partners and Vibes are making it possible for national brands to create location-based and in-store offers to convert shoppers into buyers based on a customer’s search intent and proximity. Today Vibes CEO Jack Philbin talked with me about the convergence of mobile wallets, search, and consumer behavior. In the following interview, Jack provides some compelling reasons why we’re seeing a resurgence of consumer interest in using mobile wallets, and he shares some examples of large enterprises that are seeing strong ROI via mobile wallet offers. On June 11, Jack will provide more insight about the changing mobile experience at the annual SIM Partners SIMposium. Our conversation gives you a taste of what’s on his mind:

Tari Haro: Consumer mobile usage overtook the desktop in 2014, and smartphone adoption in the U.S. continues to surge. How does the strong increase in mobile activity actually change the way consumers and brands interact with each other?

Jack Philbin: For a number of reasons, consumers are shifting from desktop to mobile. And because they use mobile so entirely different than they do their desktop – desktop is for things that take hours, mobile for things that take minutes – the brand-to-consumer relationship has changed as well. It’s about enhancing what consumers are already doing on their phone. Making life simpler, quicker and seamless.

Our new partnership with the SIM Partners team is a great example of this. Together, we’re turning “near me/closest/nearby” searches on mobile phones into a savings opportunity for consumers and a revenue opportunity for retailers. For instance, when a consumer searches for “drug store near me” on their phone, a national drug store chain could display their location information in search results and offer the shopper an in-store coupon via Apple’s Passbook or Google Wallet. There was no opportunity to have such contextually relevant, valuable interactions like that on desktop.

That’s why mobile marketing with mobile wallet and location makes sense. Brands are enabling consumers, not distracting them, and they are doing it in a matter of seconds.

Tari Haro: Analysts and media are taking a close look at the popularity of mobile wallets, with Forrester Research recently issuing a major report discussing the future of mobile wallets. Why are we seeing a resurgence of interest in mobile wallets?

Jack Philbin: It’s largely due to Apple Pay. Paying with your phone (and now smart watch) has an undeniable cool and convenience factor. This has helped increase consumer awareness and usage of mobile wallets like Passbook (for iPhone users). At Vibes, we saw a 56 percent increase of Passbook installs from September–October 2014, coinciding with the launch of Apple Pay.

Interestingly, Google Wallet, the dominant mobile wallet for Android users, has seen its number of users almost double since the release of Apple Pay. A “rising tide carries all ships” is underway right now in the mobile wallet space. I like to say that what Apple Pay can do for mobile wallet is what “American Idol” did for text messaging.

Tari Haro: It looks like the topic of the mobile wallet has become a CMO-level conversation. How should CMOs think about the value of the mobile wallet?

Jack Philbin: Now that marketers are paying close attention to mobile payments, they need to realize that the marketing opportunity lies with mobile wallets. The true opportunity for CMOs in the mobile wallet space is on the non-payment side — storing and managing offers, coupons, and loyalty cards in Passbook and Google Wallet. And that value has a proven ability to generate eight-figure sales results. CMOs should view mobile wallet as a proven marketing channel for unlocking new revenue.

Tari Haro: What are Vibes’s customers doing to maximize the value of mobile wallets?

Jack Philbin: Pep Boys is one of our customers investing in mobile wallet marketing and seeing great results. All consumers can access mobile wallet coupons from’s mobile site, and add any coupon (e.g., up to $20 off wheel alignment) to Passbook or Google Wallet.

Thirty percent of Pep Boys customers who save coupons to Passbook redeem them in-store. It shows how mobile wallet can seamlessly bridge offline and online marketing. Here’s a video we did with Pep Boys where its former CMO Ron Stoupa talks about the incredible results Pep Boys has seen with Vibes.

Men’s Wearhouse also has a robust mobile wallet marketing strategy. The retailer added a “Save to Wallet” option to its emails and saw a 10 times higher redemption rate from those emails versus those without the wallet feature.

Because of successful campaigns like that, it expects to see seven-figure sales results in 2015 from Passbook and Google Wallet.

In addition to Pep Boys and Men’s Wearhouse, we’re working with major brands like Old Navy, Gap, Chipotle, Home Depot, Sears, and more.

Tari Haro: What’s next for the future of mobile and search?

Jack Philbin: In 2015, consumers will move from rarely using mobile wallet apps like Passbook and Google Wallet to using them on a daily basis. The more consumers embrace mobile wallet, the more marketers cannot afford to bypass this massive opportunity. The Mobile wallet can be much more than just a place where payments are processed — it’s a place for brands to enhance the shopping experience and build valuable relationships. The mobile wallet and local search together create an essential layer of visibility, engagement, and scale for enterprises. Brands are just getting started tapping into the possibilities created by the convergence between mobile wallets and local search.

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