Google’s many payments tools are getting one big rebrand.
The Internet giant is finally putting its many payments capabilities — Google Wallet, Android Pay and Pay with Google — under a single name, Google Pay, after lagging for years behind Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
“It’s basic marketing to unify your message,” said David True, partner at PayGility Advisors. “It decreases confusion on where Google is going — they’re doing what Apple did years ago and Samsung, by calling it a ‘pay’.”
Of course, payment transactions are also one of the easiest ways to acquire user data, which a company like Google could use to drive ad sales. Connecting data on what customers search for with what they’re actually buying could help them better target ads, True noted. Google Pay is already available on Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse and Instacart.
Google’s road to mobile payments is riddled with the bones of past failures. It stumbled with Google Wallet in 2011, the first attempt at a mobile wallet for consumers that never really took off — and was overshadowed by Apple Pay, which launched months later.
Over the past decade, Google has put a number of different payment tools on the market, making the overall identity and value proposition of Google’s payments division more fragmented. Google Checkout, a payment processing service that launched 10 years ago, morphed into NFC-enable Google Wallet in 2011. Android Pay replaced Google Wallet on Android phones in 2015, but Google Wallet lives on as a peer-to-peer payments app for iOS users. Last year, Google scrapped its Hands Free pilot, a retail payments program it began testing almost a year ago that allowed people to use facial recognition technology to pay for items in-store. It also pulled the plug on BebaPay, a Kenyan electronic payment card in 2015, after just two years of operations. Google Tez and Google Play balance also still fall under Google’s payments umbrella.
By unifying various capabilities under one product, the move helps refresh the brand identity and simplifies the experience for the consumer. But it also further removes bank brands from the payments process as they vie for top-of-wallet status — and banks are already worried about defending their share of customer attention.
“If you’re not at the top of the wallet, you disappear,” said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group.
Bringing payment products under Google Pay is just a first step. The company suggested it will add additional features to keep consumers in its ecosystem. With more people using digital wallets, banks can keep customers attached to their card brands through marketing that emphasizes those added features, like loyalty points.
“Digital wallets in the U.S. are kind of behind what we see happening in Asia and China with Alipay and WeChat with the ability to pay bills, buy tickets and make appointments,” said Brendan Miller, principal analyst at Forrester Research. “Hopefully, that is the direction Google is thinking about — the trend we see is that payments are being subsumed by e-commerce experiences.”