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Google Wallet adds geolocated loyalty to iOS, combats Passbook

The function was already available on Android phones, but now more consumers can tap into the loyalty alerts. As the company battles Apple Passbook, it is important for Google Wallet to continue to enhance its experience on both Android and Apple smartphones to win over both consumers and merchants.

“The biggest customer question in the past six months has been, ‘I want to use location alerts to grow my business, what are my options?’” said Drew Giovannoli, marketing and operations manager at Fosbury, Austin, TX. “So far the option has been Apple Passbook, but with Google Wallet’s addition of geolocated loyalty notifications on iOS and Android, Google has taken a step closer to being a viable mobile wallet choice.

“Google Wallet can position itself as the go-to mobile wallet, but has a long way to go on feature set,” he said. “Apple takes the cake on design, accessibility and features.

“We cheer for Google Wallets because for mobile wallet adoption to reach the masses, it must create a great experience on all major platforms.”

Geolocation loyalty
The Google Wallet app is free in Apple’s App store and Google Play. Now consumers on either operating system can receive deals based on their location.

The idea of Google Wallet is that consumers can add loyalty programs to the wallet instead of having to carry lots of plastic or paper cards. Consumers can take a picture of their physical loyalty cards with their phone to easily add them to the app.

When consumers walk by a store with a saved loyalty program, they will get pinged with a notification.

As opposed to Apple’s Passbook, Google Wallet also offers payment functionality in its app via NFC. However, since iPhones are not NFC-enabled, that functionality does not work on iOS.

Apple users can still send payments to friends and family via the app by emailing them money. They can also use the Google Wallet Card, which syncs with the app, to spend their Wallet Balance at MasterCard locations and withdraw cash at ATMs.

“Geolocation and the ability to reach loyal consumers near where they can make a purchase are core capabilities for mobile commerce,” said Alastair Goodman, CEO of Placecast, San Francisco. “Consumers and brands are coming to expect that their phone can deliver intelligent offers when they are near a store.

“Also, most large brand advertisers have tested location-based mobile marketing and found that it provides substantial lift in relevance and purchase behavior on mobile,” he said. “With Apple now clearly heading into payments, Google is adding capabilities that we can expect Apple to leverage inside Passbook.

“Google seems to have realized that they are not going to disintermediate the highly fragmented payments industry and make money from financial transactions. The key lies in driving commerce, and generating revenue from relevant location-based advertising. If their wallet can succeed at delivering relevant offers while remaining agnostic to the payment instrument, then it will succeed.”

Push notifications
Both Apple’s Passbook and Google Wallet are aiming to become the centralized location for smartphone users to store and access coupons and deals. One of the main functions in the apps are push notifications.

Consumers can opt out of push notifications if they find them irritating, so the key is making sure the notifications have value. For the most part, Google Wallet’s notifications should be welcomed, especially since consumers opt in to individual loyalty programs.

The notifications are more of a friendly reminder than an invasive push for sales.

For instance, if a consumer signs up for the Red Mango loyalty program, Google Wallet will notify them when they are close to a Red Mango location so they can take advantage of the program that they already expressed interest in.

“Push notifications are currently like the wild west, with marketers able to ping consumers any time,” Fosbury’s Mr. Giovannoli said. “However in an ideal world, these notifications have the potential to be incredibly useful, bringing context to every part of our lives from shopping, to education, and entertainment.

“It’s important for marketers to look to add value, and not just see what app can shout the loudest,” he said.

Passbook vs. Google Wallet
Since Passbook is the default app on Apple devices, Google Wallet has a slightly bigger hurdle to get over on iOS. It has to provide a better experience to convince Apple users to actively download the app when they already have Passbook.

“Apple is well-known for locking things down that would potentially help a competitor, so for example, if Apple opens an NFC chip in a future release or even the fingerprint reader, Apple has not opened that capability up for others to take advantage of,” said Eric Newman, vice president of products and marketing at Digby, Austin, TX.

“Apple has a reputation and strategy of giving just enough to competitors, but not giving way the whole farm, so Apple maintains its position as a payment provider,” he said. “They may not give Google all the same tools that Apple would have on the iOS platform.”

However, it is definitely worth Google’s time to try to reach Apple users.

“The iOS user is still known to spend more money than an Android user,” Mr. Newman said. “In the U.S. in particular, it’s still a large part of the market and continues to grow.

“In many ways, iOS is viewed as the forefront or showcase of the smartphone market,’ he said. “It’s just a question if [Google will] be able to create as rich of an experience as they have on Android on iOS, and Apple may not allow that to happen.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York