Recently, Google announced that it would phase out its Checkout product in favor of its new, shiny Google Wallet platform. Wallet is designed both for online payments, the way Checkout was, as well as mobile payments at select retailers.
Note that I said “select.” Right now Google’s focus seems to be big box stores. When I searched for participating retailers in my area of San Diego, stores like New York & Company, Best Buy, Footlocker and 7 Eleven popped up. It’s unfortunate, because I think this could be a fantastic tool for small businesses. Anything that makes it easier for customers to pay businesses is usually good news for small biz, but the process of signing up as a retailer to accept Wallet is more daunting than the typical DIY approach of Google. The merchant site is geared much more toward national retailers than small businesses:
“How does a company partner with Google for Google Wallet? At least for now, a partner must engage directly with Google to build products or services that connect to Google Wallet. If you’re a business interested in partnering with Google Wallet, contact us.”
It’s unclear how much of an up-front investment is required. Online, the integration is as easy as it was with Checkout: just like with Paypal, you insert some code on your site or use Wallet’s integrated services to let customers pay through Wallet.
Fees for the service vary, depending on how much revenue you bring in. For online and off, if you bring in under $3,000 a month or less, the fee is 2.9% + $.30 per transaction (competitive with Paypal). For transactions of $3,000 to $9,999, the fee drops slightly to 2.5%+ $.30, and so on.
Will Google Succeed in the Payment Space This Time Around?
Never heard of Google Checkout? You’re not alone as it has had a low profile.
So this begs the question: how much more successful will Google be by offering mobile payments, especially when so few retailers offer it?
And for that matter, are we in the United States even ready for mobile payments? We’ve been salivating over how successful mobile payments have been in Asia and Europe, but there’s still an awkward disconnect among users, the phones offering the applications, and retailers actually accepting mobile payments, not to mention how the banks feel about losing transaction fees to smaller players in the mobile payment space. Paypal has thrown its own hat in the ring with Text to Buy services, but again, we’re simply not seeing widespread adoption.
Currently, only the Sprint Nexus-S 4G phones have the Wallet app, so we’ll be waiting a while before more popular phones carry the feature. This alone tells me growth of this service will be very slow, as customers won’t buy a specific phone just to be able to use Google’s Wallet app.
What the Change Means for Small Business
If you use Google Checkout to collect payments online, you don’t need to do anything immediately, though you will be asked to update the logo to the new Wallet version soon. You’ll be able to log into your account with the same credentials as you did with Checkout.
If you’re wondering if you should invest in a point-of-sale system to start accepting Google Wallet payments at your location, my thought is that it’s not imperative at this point (although if you’re in the San Francisco area, I bet you’d be in good company, as they’re always early adopters to Google technology).
It’s not clear whether the equipment you’d need to get started is typically free, but the Wallet site for merchants states that Google has partnered with First Data to offer a special Mobile Starter package, which includes up to $100 of free processing and a free contactless PIN Pad to accept payments.
I’d love to see Google push this product toward small businesses. It would give smaller players the opportunity to connect with customers in new ways.