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The Evolution of the Wallet And the Small Business Impact – Part One
google-wallet

Image courtesy of Flickr user asyaone

In the beginning, there was the barter.

You had something of value, saw something else of value, and exchanged your item for what you agreed was of equivalent value. Eventually there came a time where we realized that we needed to be able to store the value of our liquid assets. With that came the birth of currency as well as banking.

If we wanted to carry around money with us (or  the representations of money such as checks, debit or credit cards), we’d need a suitable conveyance. Hence, the birth of the wallet, and other similar items.

What is the Wallet Becoming In Today’s World?

And now we’re in the age of the web – the mobile web at that. When we’re online, which nowadays is whenever we’re awake, we have the ability to use items in our wallets to complete transactions remotely, in real time.

And why are we online all the time?

Partly because our phones are. 91% of adult US citizens have a mobile phone56% American adults own smart phones. Most of us can’t remember the last time our cellular phone wasn’t within three feet of us. We can charge items to our cell phones, and small business owners can also accept mobile payments with tools like Square and PayPal.

Some online gaming sites and virtual good stores even offer the option for customers to charge purchases to their cell phone bill.

The one thing we can’t seem to do with our cell phones is live without them.

In fact, consumers are yearning for a world where they can pick up their mobile phones and go – the ability to function in the world without a physical wallet, if possible.

And there may come a day when our cell phones or some form of wearable technology takes over the wallet’s function as a place to store currency.

But the wallet isn’t just a place to store money, and the tools to access it.

Open the average person’s wallet and you may also find loyalty program cards, tickets to an event, important business cards, various forms of identification, vehicle registration cards, and for those of us old enough to have physically held a Polaroid cameras, even a photo or two.

So while the concept of what a wallet looks like and its function may shift, it seems that the wallet itself will continue to exist in some form.

The Wallet Is Evolving

There are three important ways in which the wallet is evolving.

First, as we’ve already identified, our access to our money is migrating in location from our physical wallets to our phones – the option to pay with or through our phones is already universally available, though not uniformly adopted. However, moving the locale of money to mobile phones and apps doesn’t quite eliminate the need for a wallet.

We keep other items in there, some of which need to be shareable or portable. Sending someone to make a purchase on your behalf comes to mind – it isn’t always as practical to transfer money as it is to hand someone a card.

And so, secondly, our wallets are becoming slimmer as we consolidate ways to handle it.

A new device called Coin allows you to consolidate 8 of your cards into one portable, secure device – it can even alert your cell phone if it gets lost.

Google Wallet, which already allowed you to access your account offline, protect your credit card information online, participate in loyalty programs, as well as send or receive money, has just announced a new addition, the Google wallet card.

With either of these devices you could conceivably consolidate access to various accounts into a single card.

But again, a wallet isn’t just a place to store money. A third evolution of the wallet is in the migration of the other things we need handy to non-local storage that we can access with our cell phones.

One example would be Apple came out with an application called Passbook, that could store some other things we carry in our wallets, everything from boarding passes to store membership cards like the Starbucks card.

Click here to read Part Two, in which we discuss how the evolution of the wallet could affect small business.


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