It's no secret that electronic payments via mobile wallets have received a hesitant welcome from U.S. consumers. For example, one of the most popular mobile wallet apps, Apple Pay, is regularly used by only 2 percent of iPhone 6 owners. A recently survey of North American consumers by Accenture reveals that although 52 percent of respondents were "extremely aware" of the existence of mobile payments, only 18 percent of those surveyed actually make regular use of mobile payment technology. Leading the charge are high-income consumers (38 percent) and Millennials (23 percent). The Millennial generation spans the birth years of 1980 to 2000.
The Accenture study is yet another piece of evidence confirming that Millennials are the riding the tip of the electronic payment spear. Mobile wallet purchases are transacted via smartphone/tablet apps that electronically communicate with checkout terminals or other apps.
One prediction is that, by 2018, the volume of mobile payment transactions will reach 9.9 billion. The technophile Millennial generation is not afraid to try mobile payments on their smartphones (41 percent already have), and 56 percent of these consumers have already adopted alternate payment methods such as PayPal and Venmo.
Millennials responding to surveys feel that their generation is the most likely to try new technology first, and almost a quarter of them cite technology use as the distinguishing characteristic of their generation.
The implications are enormous, as the 77 million Millennials compose about 24 percent of the U.S. population. Estimates of generational spending power have the Millennials taking first place by 2018, with $3.39 trillion burning holes in their pockets.
Their ascendancy is natural as they get older and more stable, with Millennials' spending power increasing as they tick off life's milestones.
Millennials were once thought of as slackers, but they're coming of age now and are more interested in technology that makes their lives easier. That's the promise of electronic wallets, which reduce the need to walk around with credit cards, cash or a checkbook/debit card at hand.
Payments via electronic wallets can be funded by bank accounts, credit cards or prepaid accounts. They are more secure than cards because the account numbers are not visible, secret PINs are used, biometric identification is gaining traction and the transmitted information is encrypted.
Receipts are returned electronically, saving paper, ink and time. In addition, the digital information can interface with personal financial software to keep users up to date on their current status.
All it takes to use a mobile wallet is an account and a smartphone app. Millennials are a perfect fit, since survey data shows that members of this generation touch their phones 45 times a day on average, and that 83 percent sleep with their smartphones on and at the ready.
As other generations get more comfortable with and confident about mobile payment technology, they will likely follow the lead set by the Millennials and increasingly utilize electronic payment methods.
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