When Google announced at I/O, its annual developer conference last week, that Google Wallet would be undergoing some changes, people took notice. One of the most noteworthy features debuted was the ability to send money as an attachment through Gmail. The other was Google Wallet Objects API, an all-in-one loyalty card and coupon solution for Android users with capabilities similar to Apple’s Passbook.
For Chicagoans, the most exciting part of Objects is not just that it will be a centralized repository for deals and discounts, but that local companies Belly and Vibes, signed on as two of Google’s 16 launch partners.
The integration with Belly is a no-brainer. This loyalty program offers users points based on swipes at participating locations—5,500 of them across the United States—which can be earned using a physical card or the Belly app. With Objects, Android users can maintain their Belly rewards within the Wallet app, along with any other loyalty cards of their choosing.
According to Belly CEO and founder Logan LaHive, “Google I/O is one of the largest and most influential tech conferences in the world, and for Belly—a Chicago startup that is not yet two years old—to be featured on stage, in demo, and on the Google Wallet website as a premier partner truly validates that technology built in Chicago can not only compete with Silicon Valley, but also be identified as best-in-class.”
Objects is not just for loyalty cards, though. It is poised to also manage a user’s coupons, event tickets, boarding passes and other such redeemable items. Vibes aims to help its clients take advantage of this by leveraging its proven mobile marketing solutions. For example, a Vibes client could run a mobile campaign offering $5 off a purchase to users who text a keyword to a specific number. Automated behind-the-scenes processes take care of identifying the type of phone that person owns, after which the system sends back a link. The Android user’s link offers a coupon that can be added to Wallet, while the iPhone’s user’s link send the coupon to Passbook.
“What Google has announced...is a non-payment side that will make Google Wallet more like Passbook,” says Mark Tack, Vice President of Marketing at Vibes. “When they do that, now when our clients do a mobile wallet program, they’ll be able to reach not only iPhone users, they’ll be able to reach the 50% of the market out there that has an Android phone with Google Wallet.”
For developers, mobile marketers and those Android users who are sick of stuffing their wallets with various paper bits, Google Wallet Objects should open the door to a smoother, easier mobile management experience.