Yesterday afternoon at Money20/20 Europe in Copenhagen, the mobile wallet was the talk of the town, with back to back sessions from all of the biggest players in mCommerce: WorldPay, AliPay, Google, and Samsung Pay. And while the lineup did a great job of illustrating exactly how big a priority mobile payments and value added services are in the nascent world of next gen commerce, each of the presenters had to face the same question on everybody’s mind, what makes your platform different?
For Google, with its Android Pay mobile wallet just recently announced for launch in the UK and an eye to expand into the rest of Europe, this question is especially pressing. AliPay has very little to prove, as it is the dominant playing China, which is the largest mobile payments economy in the world, Samsung Pay has a novel method of acceptance that allows it to be used on old card readers that don’t support NFC, and Apple Pay is the dominant mobile wallet in the US and UK, benefiting from a major head start in both markets.
Google’s director of emerging platforms, Spencer Spinnell, represented Android Pay in the mobile wallet war happening on stage yesterday, and he rose to the occasion. According to Spinnell, Google’s goal is to bring best in class user experience to payments, and it’s doing so thanks to two unique qualities: Android Pay is built into the operating system, and it’s an open platform modeled on the same principles as the mega successful Google AdWords.
Those two aspects have a number of benefits, but for end users it means reducing the number of touchscreen interactions they need to participate in before successfully paying, and for merchants that equates to more successful payments. In short: Google’s strategy is convenience.
And convenience goes beyond the mobile wallet when it comes to Android Pay, at least in terms of outlook and philosophy. A trial in the Bay Area involving 50 small businesses and 50 McDonald’s restaurants is allowing Google to hide payments in the background of retail transactions. It’s called Handsfree, it was announced at Google’s developer conference last month, and while this technology is admittedly in its “early days” as Spinnell puts it, it’s indicative of a future we’re heading toward where your identity matters more than your phone.
“We believe that where we can add unique value is around that in-store experience,” said Spinnell. He described a situation in which a customer downloads an app onto their Android device and goes into a McDonald’s.
“Quite simply, what happens is that when the user goes up to the associate, orders their Happy Meal, and Big Mac, and fries, they simply say ‘I want to pay with Google.’ There’s a tender type on the point of sale, they walk out. They’ve never taken their phone out of their pocket, there is no cash being exchanged, and it’s a pretty magic experience,” he said.
He expanded on the verification process, explaining that the transaction is verified via the user’s two initials and a geo-location factor. The result is an experience where payment takes place, but is hidden. The interaction is easier than tapping. You simply pay with your physical presence and a part of your name.
Again, the Handsfree Android Pay is still only a pilot, but it stands as a good example of how Google looks at payments. It is looking to create a fully integrated experience based on who a user is and where a users is. Even with the phone (which seems comparatively low-tech after hearing the Handsfree example), Android Pay wants to engage a consumer and empower a retailer. The consumer knows her loyalty standing and any offers she is qualified for, as well as where she can use them before they expire. The retailers need to know who she is too, so that they can provide a better experience, and Google can provide that too. It’s like having curated ads on your web browser, only opted into and in real life.
By the end of the presentation, Spinnell succeeded in doing what Google has so far not been terribly successful in achieving on its own: he made a case for Android Pay in an over-saturated mobile commerce market. It turned out, like most things do with Google, that the key is to look beyond the contemporary use case and extrapolate the company’s philosophy. Look at the future through Google’s eyes and you will see a world where you pay with your identity.