LAS VEGAS — In a keynote at the Money2020 conference in Las Vegas, Google Wallet guru Osama Bedier opened his talk with an unexpected memory of shopping at a neighborhood grocery in Cairo, Egypt when he was a boy.
The merchant greeted his mom by name, chatted with her about her favorite olives, occasionally threw a free loaf of fresh bread in her bag and he even routinely called Bedier’s dad when a particular favorite cheese was in stock.
“That is what we are missing in digital commerce today,” said Bedier, who insisted that the path to success with a digital wallet is to find ways to enrich the personal experience.
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Will pay by phone replace credit cards, Bedier was asked at the Monday afternoon session. Nope, was his answer, and he elaborated that the transaction piece is a small part of the puzzle.
Consumers will use digital wallets, he said, when they are sufficiently motivated by other attractions. Replacing credit cards cannot be what it is all about.
That said, Bedier also painted a world where mobile is triumphing on every front. By the end of 2012 we will do more email on mobile than with desktop computers. Already, more than half of Google Maps usage is mobile. By 2013, mobile Web will triumph over the desktop Web. Connect the dots and, inevitably, mobility will become a force at retail point of sale.
“Mobile is the glue that will hold the digital wallet together,” said Bedier.
He added that, to gain ubiquity, the wallet has to save time or money or both.
Importantly, Bedier used his talk to seemingly back off Google’s monogamous embrace of Near Field Communication, NFC, as a payments enabling tool.
“There will be bridging technologies,” said Bedier, who seemed to see a role for QR codes as an interim solution pending roll out of more NFC-capable phones and terminals.
He insisted however that right now NFC is the best way to connect two intelligent devices such as a phone and a smart terminal.
Bedier took pains to say that Google wants to work with financial institutions. We have a “bank friendly approach,” he said. He indicated Google’s willingness to pass through consumer data to their financial institutions and he suggested there would be ways for institutions to communicate with customers directly inside Google Wallet.
Bedier ended with a tantalizing suggestion that a major announcement about a substantial expansion of Google Wallet would be made very soon – but it would not be this day as he deflected calls for more detail.
Analysts suggested that the Google announcement would be a deal much like PayPal’s with Discover Card, where PayPal will soon be accepted at merchants who accept Discover. But there has been no confirmation of a similar Google tie up.
Money2020 is a huge conference – held at the Aria in Las Vegas - that claims over 2,000 attendees, with many drawn from the mobile payments and digital wallet worlds.