Google Wallet Service Could Mean Big Cash for POS VARs
Google has officially launched Google Wallet, an Android-based app that uses near-field communications (NFC) to make payments. It links with Citi or MasterCard credit cards. Sadly, Google Wallet currently is only ready for the Sprint Nexus S 4G, but Google obviously wants to bring the feature to more phones. With NFC payments an up-and-coming technology, there’s a very good chance point-of-sale VARs could cash in big time when this takes off …
Google wants to bring more to your phone than a digital credit card, and so it’s looking to integrate coupons, discounts and loyalty programs to shift the idea of offline and online payments into one hybrid payment ecosystem. Google even wants to turn Google Wallet into a repository for tickets to events, airline boarding passes, a form of valid ID or even your keys (although which car or house keys was not specified).
Before you get too excited, Google Wallet isn’t exactly ready for the public; the company is field-testing the technology as we speak. Part of making Google Wallet successful will be merchants signing up for and using Google’s SingleTap NFC payment program, the technology for which is being provided by First Data. Eager merchants can sign up now for access to the NFC device. And for those concerned about security, MasterCard is implementing the Google Wallet PIN, which uses a special encrypted chip to ensure no one else is broadcasting or hacking your NFC signal.
You’re probably thinking, “What about phones that don’t have NFC?” Google Wallet will support bar-coded payments, a la the Starbucks Mobile Card App. Google said it plans on expanding Google Wallet to other phones, but didn’t specify which other phones or even whether it will be available on non-Android phones. But since Google has catalyzed the first big push into NFC payments, it’s likely this technology will catch on in the upcoming years quite quickly.
Apple has been rumored to be doing NFC for a while now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Google Wallet came to the iPhone. But Apple’s support behind Square’s third-party mobile payment device could cast some doubt on how much Apple wants NFC-styled POS technology in a phone. It’s likely Apple would like to support phone-based payments without having to work with other companies. Apple has a record of desiring complete control, something that isn’t exactly helpful when you’re required to play nice with other companies. Apple may very well let Google take the reins with this one. Still, Google Wallet on the iPhone may arrive, even if only in bar-code form.
The VAR Guy has speculated, and I’m inclined to believe him, that NFC payments spell opportunity for POS VARs. Having a Google Wallet-enabled business could instantly mean more business for small businesses, just from having the device and registering online as a merchant that supports Google Wallet. (You can check out which businesses support Google Wallet here.) But small merchants aren’t likely to have the proper POS tools and would likely need PCI-compliant technology as well. In essence, the desire for the First Data NFC device can pull in a plethora of more technology sales and services.
Bottom line? Don’t walk, run and get yourself ready for NFC. VARs can easily sell this add-on to existing POS customers, and new customers will be coming out of the woodwork in a few short years.