Thursday , February 27, 2020

Eye on Digital Commerce: Google Wallet Beyond Payments; W3C’s Payment Form Goes Live

Alphabet Inc.’s Google subsidiary is adding more services to its Google Wallet for Android mobile devices, and Google’s Chrome Web browser now supports a common e-commerce payment form for merchants that is expected to be integrated into the other major browsers too.

United Airlines Inc. in May became the first air carrier to link the Google Assistant voice-commerce system with Google Wallet, Jack Connors, head of commerce partnerships and marketing at Google, said Wednesday at the 2019 Mobile Payments Conference in Chicago. What that means is that besides paying for a ticket and loading it into the wallet, the traveler can command the wallet to open the ticket and go through the entire check-in and boarding process on a smart phone. 

“Merchants want to engage customers where they are,” says Google’s Connors.

“It is a great experience…this assistant is growing by leaps and bounds,” said Connors in his latest annual update on Google’s wallet technology for conference attendees. “Voice commerce is a big deal.”

Other carriers expected to add the service soon are Germany-based Lufthansa and Spain’s Vueling Airlines.

“Merchants want to engage customers where they are,” Connors said, later adding, “a wallet is actually a great place to engage.”

Google also is adding the ability for wallet users, with their permission, to pull data from the Google products they use in order to enroll in loyalty programs, he said. And public-transit agencies are integrating Google services—riders in Melbourne, Australia, about a month ago got the ability to add passes to Google Wallet, and Google Maps now lets New York City riders find places where they can buy transit tickets.

Meanwhile, Google’s Chrome browser and Microsoft’s Edge are the first browsers to support a streamlined platform for e-commerce, according to a report from Boston-based Aite Group LLC. Aite senior analyst Thad Peterson moderated a conference panel session about the work of three standards bodies—the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), EMVCo, and the Fast IDentity (FIDO) Alliance—on their separate but linked work to develop better security and checkout processes for e-commerce and mobile commerce.

The browser-based checkout system is the fruit of a working group within the W3C. It is expected to be integrated into updates of more browsers, such as Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Samsung’s. The system is a payment-request application programming interface (API), said panelist and W3C representative David Benoit, chief technology officer of Calgary, Alberta-based e-commerce platform provider Reach Inc. 

“This is serving to streamline [the] checkout process and create a standard way of attracting consumers,” Benoit said. “It creates a consistent view across all Web sites—merchants, services, anything where you need to interact with that checkout information.”

The API, which in addition to card payments can be adapted for alternative payment systems such as PayPal, reduces merchants’ integration tasks, according to Benoit. “They don’t have to build a form anymore, they don’t have to collect information. They don’t even have to touch any of the sensitive information like cardholder data or [personal-identifying] information. All of the parts that do that are built into the browser in a trusted environment, and that trusted information is passed in a secure mechanism to the acquirer after it’s been authenticated.” 

Buyer authentication can be based on standards from FIDO, which is developing a system to get e-commerce away from the vulnerable user name and password combination, and EMVCo, the standards body owned by the payment card networks that developed the EMV chip card standard and most recently the Secure Remote Commerce common buy button.

How all these new systems ultimately will be used by merchants, card networks, and tech firms remains to be seen. But the work by merchants to facilitate online payments, and the hassles consumers have in making them, should be reduced, according to the panelists.

“The merchant has much less involvement in the actual transaction itself,” said Peterson.

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