What can’t you do with a smartphone these days? People use their mobile devices to find their way with turn-by-turn directions, read eBooks, share social updates and everything under the sun. Some of today’s devices are so advanced that they make the average PC look primitive by comparison. You can do a lot with a smartphone and, thanks to Google, we can now add making direct purchases to the list.
Straight from the ever busy Google Labs comes Google Wallet, a mobile app that allows the consumer to make purchases right from their smartphone. There is a lot going on with this app, but the most intriguing component is NFC. Short for Near Field Communication, NFC is a wireless technology that in this case transmits data from the user’s smartphone to the merchant’s payment terminal. It is this technology that makes Google Wallet useful in shopping malls, sporting venues and even work environments (the application will soon be implemented in vending machines).
Google Wallet may sound like a crazy idea, but not only is this thing already live, albeit in beta, it is backed by some notable players as well. To cover the financial details, Google partnered up with Sprint, MasterCard, Citi and First Data. It says the app will be supported by more financial institutions in the near future. For now, the service is only available on the company’s Android platform, particularly the one running on Samsung’s Nexus S hardware. You might assume Google would eventually want to release the app on the iOS to help spur adoption, but there has been no word on an iPhone version up to this point.
Could It Work?
Although Google certainly isn’t short on wacky concepts, this is one that looks like it could actually work. Just imagine - instead of entering a store, fumbling with your wallet and worrying about whether the person behind you is looking over your shoulder, you can simply whip out your smartphone and buy what you want with the swift tap of a button. This may not be a luxury that appeals to the old fashioned consumer, but it could certainly get the attention of the digital savvy shopper. In fact, Google is banking on it to do exactly that.
Ultimately, whether or not Google Wallet fails or succeeds will be determined by how it is received by consumers. The app has game changer written all over it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be embraced. The biggest roadblock standing in its way is a challenge Google is all too familiar with - privacy. Google has already been up to its neck in privacy issues with products like Buzz, the failed social networking tool that resulted in the company receiving a class action lawsuit for violating federal privacy laws. Combined with the ever looming threat of theft, Google’s history with privacy concerns makes the future of this app questionable.
Another Dramatic Change in Purchasing Behavior
The purchasing behavior of the consumer is always changing, and if Google has its way, Google Wallet will play a huge role in the changes moving forward. Marketers certainly have a lot to gain as an app that transforms the consumer’s phone into a universal wallet will enable them to engage their audience with deals and loyalty programs, bridge the gap between online and offline shopping and simply provide a better service to the customer. The potential of Google Wallet cannot be denied, but in the end, only time will tell if this innovative mobile payment solution flourishes or flops.