Consumers Yet to Pocket Digital Wallets

Despite the fanfare surrounding the debut of “digital wallets,” it appears that the average consumer has yet to embrace the online shopping tool. This disappointing revelation has sent digital wallet promoters scrambling, as the fall shopping season gets underway without them.

A BizRate.com survey of 6,800 online shoppers shows that few even know they have digital wallets on their computers and even fewer actually use them. Only 26 percent of Internet buyers surveyed at online shopping sites said that they understand the digital wallet and its capabilities. About 58 percent said they have never heard of them.

A digital wallet is a data file that stores credit card numbers, expiration dates, user names, passwords and frequent flier numbers. With all the information in one place, online shoppers can avoid having to type out shopping forms each time they make a purchase online. Instead, they simply press a button at sites that are enabled to use the wallet and the information is transferred to the shopping form.

Powerful Promoters

The program has been championed by many major computing and online shopping firms, including Microsoft. Microsoft Wallet is the most commonly used program, and is pre-installed on most new computers that have Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. According to the BizRate.com study, Microsoft Wallet “appears to be preferred among those who have used a digital wallet.” About 61 percent of those surveyed said they have used the Microsoft program, while 22 percent said they used eWallet and 14 percent used AOL wallet from America Online.

Some of those who do use a digital wallet like the fact that it stores credit card information for them, while others cited storage of other personal information and the ability to track orders as appealing features. Managing receipts, interacting with computerized address books, and accruing loyalty points and rewards from online merchants were also reasons some cited for using digital wallets.

The survey found that the more consumers shop online, the more likely they are eventually to use digital wallets. Online shoppers who have made more than 10 online purchases in the past six months are twice as likely to have used the program as those who have made fewer than five purchases in that time. However, availability of shopping sites that accept digital wallet data is not a concern for online shoppers yet. Only 6 percent of those surveyed said that is a factor when they decide where to shop.

Considering the lingering concern consumers report about putting their personal financial information online, it is not surprising that an overwhelming majority of those surveyed would rather not use Internet-based digital wallets. About 83 percent of online buyers who use digital wallets prefer downloadable applications stored on their computers.

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