Last week Google announced the launch of Google Wallet – a new service that will allow you to pay for things using your phone instead of a physical credit or debit card.

This is big news all on its own, but to digital marketers this has huge implications.

Here’s the break down

Current State of the Nation

Today, despite the idea that we’re overwhelmed with technology at our fingertips, our world is still predominantly based on traditional touch-points that “aid” us in our purchase decisions. Take for example grocery shopping. For the most part people still go grocery shopping the same way they did fifty years ago.

  1. Week is nearly over and you prep an inventory of things you’re running out of / need for your meals for the next week
  2. Inventory of things becomes a written grocery list
  3. Drive / Bike / Helicopter to grocery store
  4. Find all items and maybe the odd surprise here and there
  5. Check out through a cashier

Barring obvious examples like Grocery Gateway and self-check-out (which isn’t working as well as I would have thought) you’d think that the overall experience of retail purchases would be leveraging mobile technology more. Instead of leveraging mobile and other “in-store” technologies, they use mobile the same way as most other industries do – “Mobile Friendly Websites”. Something that isn’t all that helpful if you’re already in the store.

Potential Future

So imagine if the above five steps looked a little bit more like this:

  1. Week is nearly over and your smart fridge tells your to-do list (stored somewhere on a server in a land far away) that you’re running low on milk, chicken and double smoked cheddar
  2. Your phone has remote access to a grocery list and while looking at it, you’re invited to add “recipes” you’d like to try – which add more items to your grocery list based on available inventory at your preferred grocery store
  3. Drive / Bike / Helicopter to grocery store
  4. Your phone shows your most optimal path through the grocery store and allows you to scan the items in as you gather them to check them off the list (scanning also provides rich detail about the item in particular – eg. Where the chicken is from and how fresh it is)
  5. Your item scanning has racked up an actual bill which you can pay for through your phone instead of checking out and as you walk out of the store your phone verifies tells the security bars not to trigger the alarms and that you have indeed paid for all the items in your basket

All of this is easily doable today… with the exception of paying $3,500 for a smart fridge. The rest can be handled with basic web applications, basic mobile apps, secure eCommerce platforms and NFC stickers on all products (which are no different from the RFID stickers available on most products we buy today).

With all of these activities going on we would have access to this particular customer’s:

  • Fridge Contents
  • Preferred Eating Habits
  • Heat Map of their walking path through the store (did that Promotional sign make them stop? Did they sample the Smoked Gouda?)
  • Spending habits on a week to week basis

And with said data we could:

  • Let the customer know about specific sales as they relate to products you want them to try out (vs. what they’ve already been eating)
  • Grow their basket size on their next visit by leveraging their eating habits to give them new recipe ideas
  • Reorganize the store to leverage existing travel patterns through the store (this happens already but without the same integrity of data)
  • Optimize messaging to the customer based on their spending habits (are they looking for recipe ideas? Or do they just want to save money on their weekly trip)

While we could have done all these things before – we were all bending over backwards trying to figure out what the perceived benefit to the customer would be. We throw deals at them, incentivized opt-ins to loyalty programs through “free points” and lots of other stuff with little to no long term pay-off for the customer. With the advent of innovations like Google Wallet – Customers will be looking for those streamlined experiences that not only let them check out faster, but also let them make their decisions faster and smarter while saving them money in the process.