Known for its knack for constant innovation and uncanny ability to predict the latest consumer trends, Google’s latest plan has been to take the US banking and technology world by storm, providing consumers with yet another convenient way to make purchases on the go with Google Wallet. See also: there is no Google Wallet UK release date.
The technology is essentially a combination of features that allow your smartphone to take the place not only of your credit card and/or debit card, but also selected loyalty cards, gift cards, coupons, and more (a bit like Apple’s Passbook app). It has the potential to bring an end to your pockets overflowing with reward cards that require just another 9 stamps before you can claim that free takeaway or espresso.
At first glance, this all sounds very convenient, but there hasn’t been much interest from users so far. Here we look at possible reasons why.
Google Wallet: making payments using your phone – too weird?
Using MasterCard’s Pay Pass and Visa’s payWave systems, Google Wallet allows you to buy things simply by tapping your NFC-equipped phone on one of these stations, in seconds. The bleary-eyed morning coffee purchase has never been so effortless, but with a limited number of manufacturers and shops offering this technology (and the fact that the iPhone doesn’t have NFC), it seems that most people aren’t familiar enough with its operation to make it seem attractive, or even worthwhile.
Google Wallet: buy online in a click-click
Online shopping is where Google Wallet is taking off. Using the new “Buy with Google” button which is increasingly found on some retailers’ websites, you can make purchases online without the tedious experience of having to fill in your card details and address information: it really is possible to place an order with a single click. Amazon pioneered this method with the appropriately named ‘1 Click’, of course, so it’s more familiar.
This makes Google Wallet perfectly placed for those impulse buys, repeat purchases or those secretly-bought presents to surprise your other half. However, the problem once again is that not many online retailers are using the required button, meaning it continues to be a minority and therefore a relatively forgettable feature.
Google Wallet: Security
Another factor driving consumers away from Google Wallet could be concerns with the security of the process, at a time when online and card fraud is at an all-time high. However, the technology that Google Wallet uses (known as NFC, or Near Field Communication) in fact probably provides more security than a regular debit or credit card, which can leave you vulnerable when lost, stolen or even cloned by a crafty cashier.
Google Wallet uses a dual-PIN system not only to unlock the phone, but also to make the purchase by activating the NFC chip when in range. There is also encryption technology in place to protect your card information as it passes to the merchant’s station.
In addition, Google Wallet Purchase Protection covers 100 percent of unauthorised transactions, and the technology can be disabled remotely as soon as the phone leaves your possession. A decent media campaign that advertises this element is vital to the success of the technology.
Google Wallet: what's the future?
There’s no doubt that this is a clever app, but the success or failure of Google Wallet hinges on the next few months, and the first key steps will be for Google to build relationships with retailers to get more pay points in some of the bigger retail chain stores, and to get more sites using the “Buy With Google” button. Only when the feature can be used widely is it likely to become popular with the public. Using some of Google’s much-publicised profits on an increased marketing trend will also be key to making Wallet the number one payment method in the future.