Google recently announced it will expand the capabilities of Google Wallet to allow Gmail account holders to send money to any recipient with a US based email account. Sending money to a friend will be as easy as attaching a picture to an email. The service will be free for those who link their bank account to Google Wallet. Otherwise, funding from a credit or debit card will cost 2.9% of the amount sent.
This is Google’s latest attempt at putting their wallet in the hands of more consumers while hedging their bets on Near Field Communication (NFC), the technology upon which the wallet was built. Since launch in September 2011, Google Wallet has faced significant adoption issues. Early security concerns, combined with a lack of merchant POS and mobile phone proliferation of NFC, has thwarted widespread use.
The Latest Extension of Google Wallet Falls Short
A comprehensive vision for Google’s wallet remains to be seen. Leveraging Gmail for person-to-person (P2P) payments makes one wonder if this is not part of a larger strategic shift away from NFC. Google executives claim they are standing by the tap-and-go technology; however, as other market leaders fail to invest in NFC, the future for Google Wallet remains uncertain.
The problem with Google Wallet – even taking into account this latest announcement – is that it fails to dazzle. Yes, sending twenty bucks to a friend for last night’s round of drinks seems easy enough but settling up at the bar with cash, card, or PayPal is probably quicker and easier. At rollout, Google is limiting sending money via Gmail to the desktop or the Google Wallet mobile website. That is a less than ideal user experience. One look at the Google Wallet website leaves one confused and uninspired. And, nobody wants to jump through hoops to settle up for a Heineken.
As a nearly $300B company, Google could stand to invest more heavily in the user experience when it comes to its payment strategy. Google has the reach in consumer base (Gmail is the largest e-mail provider in the market) but it’s time to offer this user base something beyond a fragmented payment experience.