Google’s Redesigned Digital Pockets Tries to Make Funds Really feel Extra Private

alphabet Inc.’s

Google is trying to attract more people to its payments app and keep them there longer. This includes features such as a reward system, new financial management services, and a payment listing format that generates SMS conversations.

The Google Pay app will eventually offer Plex, mobile checking and savings accounts, which will be launched by Google in partnership with 11 banks and credit unions.

“It positions the mobile app and Google Pay to meet a customer’s financial needs beyond payments,” said Ross Cosner, vice president and analyst at Gartner Inc.

Google’s redesigned app in November comes at a time when competitors for digital wallets are rapidly expanding both users and functionality. PayPal Holdings Inc.

has its own app with features like an installment plan and the company’s peer-to-peer payment system, Venmo, offers check cashing and a physical credit card with a QR code.

Many of these apps also include some of the same features as Google Pay. Venmo provides users with a social media-like feed of their friends’ payments, such as emoji and stickers, and has a cash-back reward system. Intuit Inc.’s

Mint gives users insights into their money, such as: B. Tracking expenses in a specific category.

Google Pay offers users personalized snapshots in areas such as weekly expenses


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Alphabet Inc.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the use of digital wallets on mobile devices and other forms of contactless payment. Research firm eMarketer estimated in June that the number of people using digital wallets on a POS system will increase from 86.9 million in 2020 to 93 million this year.

The design of the Google Pay app – including illustrations, payment conversations with threads, and a muted color palette – is aimed at making it feel less transactional and build more relationships with people and businesses in the app, said Mike Holzer, director of user experience at Google Payments.

“It reflects this very chatty kind of interaction,” said Holzer.

The app also seeks to channel the “story” format of short vertical videos that are popular on social media platforms. The story-like images provide users with a snapshot of upcoming bills and bank charges. According to a Google spokesperson, there are about seven types of these “stories” in Google Pay that are personalized according to a user’s expenses.

Other options let users connect the app to their Gmail and Google Photos accounts to search for receipts and categorize transactions.

Some of these user experience additions can make the app feel more personal than others, experts say.

Threaded transactions feel chat-based, a design element many people are familiar with, said Chelsea Matthews, founder and executive creative director at Another Creative Inc.,

a creative agency. “It feels a bit more local than the way things are very transactional on Venmo,” she said.

The illustrations in the app are vibrant and look friendlier than many payment apps, said Jess Jaime, senior designer at Jaime Studio, a design agency.

Google Pay is lagging behind its more established competitors and the question remains whether the new features are enough to catch up. The app had an average of 1.35 million active iOS users per month in 2020, compared to 26.8 million for Cash App, 13 million for PayPal, and 11.4 million for Venmo. This emerges from the Gartner analysis of the data from SensorTower Inc. on the five most important iOS payment apps. According to Gartner’s analysis of SensorTower data, Google faces a similar challenge on Android devices with 1.33 million average monthly active users, compared to 12.4 million for Cash App, 12.2 million for PayPal and 10.7 million for Venmo.

And since Google Pay’s features work best when users allow the app to access their Gmail and Google Photos accounts, that can create additional hurdles, said Jenny Nicholson, executive director of branding experience at McKinney Ventures LLC., One Advertising agency.

Google is facing a number of antitrust lawsuits, including one filed by the Justice Department in October. Google has responded in online posts that its free products help people and small businesses, and that the Justice Department’s complaint is “deeply flawed”.

People like this can use Google for so many purposes but can be nervous about giving more information to the company, Ms. Nicholson said. “Does Google have the kind of confidence that people want to connect all of their financial information to Google?” She said.

According to Holzer from Google Pay, the app was developed with data protection principles such as transparency and control in mind. The integrations with Gmail and Photos are disabled by default and need to be enabled by interested users.

“We have seen from experience around the world that when we create functionality that is really helpful to our users and provide transparent controls for them, adoption follows,” said Holzer.

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Write to Ann-Marie Alcántara at ann-marie.alcantara@wsj.com

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