Sources close to Google are reporting that the company will announce the release of a Virtual Wallet with NFC (Near-Field Communication) functionality, available on Sprint’s Nexus S smartphones using the Android operating system. The primary functionality will include the ability to pay for goods with a simple swipe of the phone, as well as redeem coupons and rack up points in a loyalty program; working with Google to make this technology possible are VeriFone and ViVO Tech. The news is expected to be broken tomorrow, May 26th, at a press event in New York City. The list of retailers who will be participating in the early stages of this release includes Subway, Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters, which should bode well for the generally younger, more tech-savvy user base of Droid smartphones.
This release should also serve as a wake-up call for retailers and grocers, and underscore the need for mobile device functionality at their stores. Smartphone and financial payment technologies are clearly converging and will certainly be tied to social media and location based services like Foursquare and Gowalla in the very near future. One example of a retailer with good intentions in the area of customer engagement is Target, which has been making great efforts to meet their customers on their smartphones. Interestingly they are holding off on mobile payments for the near-term, citing uncertainty in the smartphone mobile payments landscape and somewhat slow user adoption to this point. With Google entering the space on one of its most popular Droid devices, the issue of user adoption could be solved very quickly, and retailers who grasp this reality and are able to get a head-start over their competition (for example by using software like ours!) will be in a great position to win more business and delight their customer bases.