Google Wallet dropped NFC Loyalty Points and Gift Cards
Google recently announced fundamental changes to its Google Wallet service. On August 21, Google Wallet stopped supporting NFC redemption for gift cards and merchant loyalty points. In these competitive times, more and more businesses have come to rely on loyalty programs to spur consumer activity. By simplifying the point-of-sale experience, NFC payments are supposed to optimize loyalty programs for mobile shoppers. The new changes to Google Wallet may make some companies rethink joining Google’s bold experiment in merchant services.
Though Google says it is looking for new ways to process loyalty and gift cards, no details are available as of yet. Nor has Google revealed a specific reason for scaling back its mobile wallet service. Furthermore, this newest change caps a string of high-profile personnel shuffles and policy changes for Google Wallet. In the wake of embarrassing security issues, Google discontinued its virtual prepaid debit cards last year. Since prepaid cards are gaining popularity very quickly, Google’s move inspired curiosity and controversy alike. In May, many observers were startled by the sudden departure of Osama Bedier, the vice president and public face of Google Wallet.
The story of Google Wallet demonstrates the complex pitfalls of pushing technological innovation in merchant services. For years, Google has boosted NFC technology as a game-changer for the mobile wallet industry. Though the company remains officially committed to NFC-enabled point-of-sale transactions, the changing dynamics of Google Wallet could herald future troubles for the payment system. In 2013, the public is increasingly worried about privacy and security issues. As details emerge about corporate involvement in NSA snooping and surveillance, many are wondering if Google is fully committed to safeguarding customer data. For many, these concerns may overshadow and obscure the security advantages of Google’s NFC-powered transactions.
Deeply invested in NFC technology, Google’s course is innovative yet arguably too experimental for many companies. Even forward-thinking carriers and vendors have limits to their adaptability. If Google Wallet’s limited market share is any indication, many smaller merchants are still unsure about the practicality of adopting NFC payments.