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Google Wallet: Major news for mcommerce, mobile search and multichannel engagement?

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23rd Sep 2011
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Will Google Wallet herald a new age of mcommerce and multichannel engagement?

After several months of testing, Google Wallet launched this week to a limited number of merchant and retail partners in the US, with the potential to ultimately bring a tap-and-pay system to the mainstream.

Google Wallet enables users to pay with their Citi MasterCard credit card and the Google Prepaid Card, which can be funded with any their existing plastic credit cards, but Google also announced that it is working with Visa, American Express and Discover cards to make them available on Google Wallet in the future.

In a new post on the Google official blog, the team unveiled videos of the Google Wallet in action.

While it is presently based solely in the US, Google is said to be looking at a European launch next year.

For now, only one handset is enabled with the Near Field Communication (NFC) system − the Sprint Nexus S - and the application download won't be available until Friday (23 September). But the excitement/hype is already starting to build.

Will it revolutionise the way we pay? Or will it fail to capture the imagination of the consumer?

Some are sceptical about Wallet.

"The news thatthe Google wallet service has now gone live in the US has brought with it a flurry of excitement surrounding the associated benefits to the end consumer," says Mark Kusionowicz, marketing director at The Logic Group. "The payment technology involved is not necessarily a new advancement though, while there are plenty of payment mechanisms out there already and arguably consumers aren’t demanding another one.

"Recent customer loyalty research by The Logic Group – soon to be released in partnership with Ipsos MORI - also shows a mixedreaction from consumers of all ages to theconcept of the mobile wallet. Those who were most cautious about this concept were worried about fraudulent use and inconvenience if lost; but, those most positive about it did recognise that this new technology would be more convenient, meaning they would only have to carry one loyalty identifier and they could get access to offers immediately whilst shopping."  
Kusionowicz continues, "There’s clearly a lot of work to be done in educating consumers about the mobile wallet, and what it really means for them in terms of the day-to-day user experience. Communications with customers need to allay their fears; particularly about security, complexity of use and how exactly this benefits beyond replacing current payment methods which are already convenient and everyone is familiar with."
Others, however, are more optimistic about the significance of the launch.
Sri Sharma, managing director at Net Media Planet, for instance, suggests that the concept of the mobile wallet "will enable consumers to buy goods in-store with a swipe of their phone or online without having to enter any of their credit card details, which will drive mcommerce and mobile search forward at an exponential rate."
And the potential is there for Google Wallet's influence to extend beyond making payments. Despite his concerns, Kusionowicz concedes that the technology is "really exciting" and outlines some of the potential applications. "Consider tapping your mobile against a poster whilst you’re out shopping to gain a discount offer/coupon for a specific purchase; then, being able to redeem the offer using a ‘single tap’ in store, which in turn applies the promotional discount, pays for the goods and even generates loyalty points all within one transaction," he says. "The possibility to significantly improve, simplify, and speed up the customer experience at the point of interaction is a real advancement."
Sharma similarly believes that there are major oppotunities for brands to strengthen their multichannel offering. For example, a consumer searching for a particular product, can follow a paid search advert to an online offer, save the voucher to their “wallet” and then redeem it in-store via a swipe of their mobile phone. This represents significant opportunity beyond the use of promotional tactics, offering a simple but effective way to implement and track a multichannel offering.
Sharma adds: "Call tracking, where brands can monitor which consumers are engaging with the brand via click-to-call technology, is already available and driving significant returns for many companies – particularly in sectors where the products are high involvement purchases. This uplift is the result of being able to monitor the contribution that telephone sales make and then optimise online presence to deliver more of the activities that drive consumers from online search to making a phone call. The advent of Google Wallet enables brands to extend the tracking process to identify not only where their online presence is driving offline telephone sales but also where online presence is leading to offline in-store sales."
He continues: "The benefits of technology advances, such as Google Wallet, in driving consumers from online to in-store are clear. However, there is also an opportunity to use the advances in mobile to increase engagement with consumers when in-store. For example, as more brands adopt it, NFC could be used in conjunction with search to enable customers to swipe an item in-store using their mobile to then obtain further information and customer reviews on that product. Some consumers already engage in in-store search but NFC will simplify the process significantly, which will undoubtedly drive interaction levels."
Nevertheless, Kusionowicz adds a note of caution - if Google Wallet is to succeed, and for brand to capitalise on this success, it will need to win over the general public. He concludes: “This latest news shows developments speeding up across the pond, and a very savvy marketing campaign is now required to see not just consumer uptake (as handsets will eventually come with the technology as standard) but more importantly consumer usage, living up to the hype.”
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