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by Jonathan Price | August 02, 2016
Last year, the mobile wallet and payment industry increased exponentially with providers like Google Wallet, Softcard, and PayPal joined by highly publicized solutions such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and others. Why such significant growth? Consumers are seeking more streamlined ways to accomplish everyday activities via mobile. Financial technology is racing to keep up with demand from the estimated 3 billion smartphone users around the world. 

Trends, technologies, and launches of mobile payment solutions receive a lot of attention from the media and consumers. A similar movement -- though not as widely publicized -- is happening within the rewards and incentives space. The development and delivery of rewards has shifted from the physical plastic card to instant digital delivery. Digital delivery now spans the consumer preferred platform, meeting reward recipients in the place of their choice, including mobile. 

What's driving innovation in the mobile financial technology space, from mobile payments to mobile delivery of rewards and incentives? It all comes down to the demands of the target audience:

Shift from physical: Just as shoppers are no longer pulling out a checkbook or plastic card -- instead using a mobile payment app -- so are reward programs shifting away from physical rewards. Not only are consumers demanding digital delivery, but companies can streamline programs from end-to-end by going virtual. 

Instant gratification: Fast, fast, fast. Technology is moving all parts of life forward at breakneck speed. Consumers don't want to wait for anything, and impatience is at an all-time high. Innovations in the financial technology industry are feeding this need with everything from fast-pay options to secure finance apps. For the rewards and incentives space, instant email delivery of a reward trumps the traditional snail mail delivery of a physical card or certificate. Optimized for mobile? Even better. 
 
Convenience: Nearly every function for daily life is now on demand: messaging, email, media, and other connected experiences have generated a sense of entitlement to fast, simple, and efficient experiences. In the incentives space, that means that the earning of a reward, and even the ability to utilize that reward, should happen with just a click or a touch. 

Cross-platform behavior: Studies have shown that consumer not only use more than one device at a time (e.g. watch Netflix on the desktop while browsing social on a tablet) but also start tasks on one device to finish on another. That's why it is important that financial technology services flow seamlessly from one device to another -- optimizing for both desktop and mobile delivery and use. 

Mobile ubiquity: As mentioned above, mobile usage is ubiquitous and growing. Walk down the street in a crowded city and everyone is looking down at their phones. Waiting for the bus or a doctor's appointment? Phone comes out. Mobile is not new and now it is just an expected part of any solution or strategy. Studies show that this space will continue to grow all around the world, and has overtaken other methods for connectivity already. Mobile optimization, mobile apps and more are becoming vital across all industries, including financial. 

We've seen our product and client base follow a similar trajectory as the mobile payment space, as we continue to find ways to innovate and meet the needs of a digital population. So what do we think is next? Demand for mobile-based financial services -- like digital rewards and incentives programs -- will continue to grow. Consumers will keep demanding technology that makes every day activities faster and easier. And the technology sector -- in financial services and beyond -- will keep innovating to meet that demand. I know we will. 

Jonathan Price, CEO of Virtual Incentives, is a pioneer in the incentive and reward industry, and has led Virtual Incentives to develop an industry leading incentive platform that enables businesses to reward in a way that is simple, cost-effective, secure, reliable, green, and -- most importantly -- instant.