Google announced earlier this month that as of August 21st it would suspend support on Google Wallet for gift cards and loyalty cards (often utlizing point systems). This seems like it could be a blow to the gift card industry, like for those who sell bulk gift cards, as it limits the ways gift cards can be distributed and redeemed. However I am scratching my head to figure out if we, the gift card industry should even care that much.
Google wallet has struggled to find adoption in the market, even as mobile payments rise and retailers continue to develop more sophisticated apps to support shopping, couponing and loyalty programs. The two biggest mobile carriers in the U.S. AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless don’t carry devices that are Google wallet enabled, we need to put this move in perspective.
Google has made many changes to its Wallet since it originally launched in May 2011 and has largely failed at making a real dent in the growing mobile payments and NFC markets. Google Wallet previously pulled the plug on supporting prepaid debit cards yet they still remain prevalent in the payments market. Since loyalty program adoption and circulation of gift cards remains strong, the market indicates it is not yet time to panic. This easily could mean Google is trying to make further adjustments to make Wallet what consumers are looking for. Meanwhile, consumers will continue to buy gift cards, as will buyers of bulk gift cards, in both physical form and digital. Google’s move is not a vote of no confidence in the gift card, perhaps just a way to focus the wobbly path of their wallet and consumer NFC payments.