Western Union was one of the first money transfer operators to work with mobile operators in Africa, where the success of mPesa has been highly touted, according to Anand Kirshnaswamy, Western Union’s vice president, mobile product development, and innovation.

“Since then, we have worked with mobile operators in other countries to allow our customers to send money to mobile wallets,” Kirshnaswamy told Loyalty360.

Earlier this month, Western Union announced it made a strategic investment in Walletron, a pioneer in mobile wallet bill presentment and payment capabilities.

The investment supports Western Union’s strategic direction to bring smart and convenient payment experiences to its customers via smartphones. Walletron automates brands’ presence in mobile wallets like Apple Wallet and Android Pay, powering digital engagement and serving billers through a unique and innovative bill-to-wallet solution, moBills.

In August 2016, a commercial alliance was announced between the two companies, which will allow Western Union’s electronic bill payment service Speedpay Inc. to offer biller clients the option to add Walletron moBills technology. The technology allows customers to enjoy personalized notifications, bill information, and a streamlined payment experience via their smartphones.

Walletron moBills operates within native mobile wallets on leading smartphone operating systems. When a customer has the moBills card in their wallet, they can view current bill information, pay bills, update notification preferences, view a copy of past bills, and access their account page.

“Mobile wallets are an important component of our omnichannel strategy,” Kirshnaswamy explained. “Wallets provide last-mile capability to our digital value chain. Along with bank accounts and debit cards, wallets are a significant payout option for our digital customers.”

Western Union’s services around wallets currently include: Being able to send money directly to a receiver’s wallet (auto-delivery), a receiver being able to redirect a cash payout into a wallet (pickup), and being able to send from a wallet (send).

“Mobile wallets bring one of the most user-friendly customer experiences in money transfers, and we are observing rapid growth in a number of mobile wallets available in the global market, as well as a growing number of customers using wallets on a daily basis,” Kirshnaswamy added. “Western Union is a customer-centric organization, so we work with mobile wallet providers to offer our existing customers Western Union services in the most user-friendly way as we well as attract new customers by offering the best customer experience.”

Western Union is driving mobile as a customer engagement channel across its money transfer and payments business.

“We recently made a strategic investment in Walletron which reinforces this direction, and forms part of our overall omnichannel strategy,” Kirshnaswamy said. “We provide customers with convenient, reliable and affordable solutions. So, existing where our customers live (e.g., in the mobile wallet space) is important to keeping their loyalty and continuing the use of Western Union services.”

As customers become more digital, the components of the physical wallets (credit cards, coupons, identity cards) are becoming digitized, Kirshnaswamy noted.

“The ability to access these on the go is attractive to customers,” he said. “Mobile wallets are now among the top four ways consumers prefer to stay updated with offers and coupons. Adoption is especially high for millennials and digital-savvy customers.  Younger customers and those with higher incomes also skew much higher in behaviors that make mobile wallets an ideal fit, from letting physical coupons go unused or expire, to desiring the dynamic engagement and reminder functionality that mobile wallets provide. Being able to pay with your mobile wallet (your mobile device) at the point-of-sale and online without having to have your physical card with you is increasingly attractive to customers.”

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