CAMBRIDGE, MA – Roughly 75 MIT students, alumni, and other technology professionals gathered at the inaugural MIT Sloan Hi-Tech conference on Friday to discuss emerging trends in mobile technology. In an afternoon keynote, Google VP of commerce and payments Stephanie Tilenius said that her company will be changing the look of Google’s classic blue links for mobile devices and will make obsolete the act of swiping a credit card.
Right now, 77 percent of the world’s population has a mobile phone – that’s around 5.3 billion people – and 66 percent of Americans have a smartphone.
Not only do people have them, but they also keep them close at hand. Sixty-six percent of smartphone users sleep next to their phones and 25 percent admit to using their phones in bathroom. “In my household, it’s 100 percent,” said Tilenius.
“In the next 5 years, you’re going to see the mobile phone revolutionize commerce and payments,” she predicted. “More so than in the last 20 years.”
By 2015, 10 percent of mobile users will pay with their phones, and 2.5 billion people will have bought a digital good.
The Google exec went on to describe how her company’s online payment tool, Google Wallet, will transform the mobile payment process. Instead of swiping, customers will now “tap” their phones to pay with their credit cards. The system will simultaneously access the user’s loyalty information and find applicable coupons, including those from print, TV, radio, in-aisle, and billboard ads, making it easier for retailers to track their campaigns and making discounts more accessible for consumers. Google is currently working with 30 retailers on this process including Whole Foods.
The challenge will be to merge online and offline inventory in the cloud, said Tilenius, adding that “Nordstrom and Best Buy are on cutting edge” of this.
Google’s social layer will also play a role. “With Google+ we have logged-in users so we know who they are and what they’re into,” she said.
When it comes to driving sales, said Tilenius, other “social networks have been disappointing.” She is a Pinterest user herself, but doesn’t see Facebook as being the future of e-commerce.
Instead, Tilenius predicts a future where people browse catalogs on their tablet devices. Unlike the PC or laptop, which people use for work as well as recreation, the tablet is “a nine-to-midnight device,” said Tilenius. “More ‘shoptainment’ than anything else.”
Google is changing with the times by providing a more visually pleasing experience for people searching with their tablets or smartphones. “Rather than ten blue links,” Tilenius said, “it’ll give you a direct way to purchase.”
The idea is to optimize for each vertical. For example, the search results for a digital camera should look very different from the search results for a red dress.”We don’t think of it as a competition with Amazon,” Tilenius added.”We know that the world is moving from a bunch of links to codified answers.”