One of the more under-the-radar announcements at Google’s I/O conference was Google Wallet. While the idea clearly isn’t the showpiece of Google’s annual conference, it’s nonetheless a direct attack on other payment systems, and leverages Chrome, Android, Google+, and Gmail to undercut competitors. For instance, Google plans to combat shopping-cart-abandonment – which, globally, occurs at a staggering rate of 82% – through Chrome. When you visit a shopping site with Chrome – already the world’s most popular browser – your billing and shipping information will be baked into the browser. You’ll be prompted with your shipping, billing, and credit card information through the browser, and Google says it pares down the checkout from 21 steps to just 3. The biggest sticking point of this part of Google Wallet, though, is that website owners have to implement the API on their end, so the potential impact is inherently limited unless it becomes the industry standard. At the same time, Google has also introduced a mobile API that would allow e-commerce websites to support checkout via Google Wallet, setting up a direct alternative to the PayPal button. It’s similar to the Chrome system, but as it’s early days for the technology, there aren’t many more details revealed yet.
More impressively though, Google Wallet has extended its Android reach into the physical world. Merchants and Developers are now able to sell physical goods and services through Google Wallet, and can now offer Android users two-click checkout. Partners include Airbnb, Expedia, Uber, Wrapp, Rue La La, and more. What’s more, though, is that Google Wallet also functions in Gmail, leveraging the peer-to-peer element of email to enable person-to-person payments. With Gmail’s latest update, users can now “attach money” to an email, to transfer funds between people, say, to the babysitter instead of cash, etc. Google Wallet still falls behind functions like PayPal and Square in the real-world department, and it’s unclear what Plan B is if NFC fails. At the same time, though, there’s a new hat in the ‘Wallet’ ring, one to be watched closely.