Web Exclusive | June 2011 | By Daniel P. Smith

Google Wants Your Wallet

Google’s new wallet app proves that the mobile payment is here to stay. 

The Google Wallet lets customers pay at quick serves using their smartphone.
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Google recently announced its latest innovation to considerable fanfare, but it’s not just techies that will have a watchful eye on its development—the quick-serve industry will, too.

According to the company, Google Wallet—an app that will give smartphones the payment capabilities of a physical wallet—will provide restaurants an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships. It aims to offer faster, easier shopping experience with quick payment and relevant deals, promotions, and loyalty rewards.

“We’re building an open-commerce ecosystem that for the first time will make it possible for you to pay with an NFC (near field communication) wallet and redeem consumer promotions, all in one tap,” Google Vice President of Commerce and Payments Stephanie Tilenius said in a statement announcing the product.

The Wallet works with the MasterCard PayPass network, which is already in use at quick serves like McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, and Taco Bueno. Customers simply pull up the Wallet app, tap their phone on the PayPass device, and payment info is automatically transmitted. Merchants can also set up the transaction to deliver loyalty and promotional info to the customer through the Wallet.

According to First Data, a provider of merchant processing services, mobile contactless transactions are expected to top 2.2 billion in 2011. As U.S. consumers grow increasingly comfortable using mobile devices for daily tasks, mobile commerce seems to be the next natural step.

“We’re nearing a tipping point where these connected consumers with access to a range of NFC-enabled devices and mobile wallets will be able to migrate all of the accounts in their physical wallet to their mobile device in order to make payments anytime or exchange value anywhere,” says Dom Morea, First Data senior vice president.  

Google has assembled a team of partners with industry-leading experience to launch Google Wallet. First Data is powering key parts of the wallet through its Trusted Service Management (TSM) technology and helping drive its acceptance at merchant locations. Citibank and MasterCard are helping with the marketing and support of the wallet, while the Sprint network will host the first smartphone (its Nexus S 4G) with the wallet capability.

The Google Wallet is now in field test and is slated to be available to consumers later this summer.

“With consumers ready to embrace the technology and a growing number of quick-service restaurants implementing contactless POS systems, mobile commerce’s arrival is not only imminent, its time has come,” Morea says.

Mobile contactless transactions are expected to top 2.2 billion in 2011.

With contactless payments 40 percent faster than swipe transactions, Morea says, restaurants should be able to increase the speed of checkout and attract valuable new customers with the wallet. The PIN-protected app will also help reduce the risk of data theft compared to a physical wallet that contains payment cards.

Having the ability to push targeted offers to customers through the Wallet could also increase traffic.

Operating more than 700 restaurants in 39 states, the Lakewood, Colorado–based Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (ENRG) understands the premium quick-service customers place on speed, ease, and convenience.

“We’re open to anything that’s better for our customers and better for our brands,” says ENRG Chief Concept Officer James O’Reilly.

Given this and ENRG’s own focus on innovation and surging consumer demand for everything mobile, ENRG jumped at the opportunity to be a trial and launch partner with Google for its initial roll out of Google Wallet.

“As a one-stop-shop transaction for our customers, the secure payment, speed, and ease combine with offers, loyalty, and gift cards to give our guests added value,” says Paul Rooprai, ENRG director of marketing.

Businesses will not incur any additional charges for the wallet’s mobile payments.

“[Google Wallet is] treated just like any other payment. Systems can even be set up to print a receipt if the customer so desires,” Morea says.  

Beyond ENRG, Google is also partnering with Jamba Juice and Subway, working to develop next-generation POS systems accepting the new shopping experience. It’s a reality that is exciting to ENRG and many of its quick-service contemporaries.

“In making the transaction more seamless, the speed and quality of service are both elevated so that everyone wins,” Rooprai says.

Google Wallet field tests are ongoing in New York and San Francisco; then the testing will move to Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. With a presence in the latter four cities, ENRG is working with Google throughout the summer to finalize the Google Wallet process.

“We’re well aware that this could represent the future source of payment in our restaurants,” O’Reilly says.