Google has made its super app, Google Pay, even more super. The company announced Thursday (April 29) that it is building in even more functionality into the digital wallet app. These include the ability to find deals on groceries at both Safeway and Target markets and an expanded ability to pay for public transportation.
Super App Evolution
In 2010, an investment group designed to drive new apps for BlackBerry called the BlackBerry Partners Fund announced its “Super Apps Developer Challenge.” In describing the contest, then RIM (the company that developed BlackBerry) Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis explained that a super app was one that made use of the most of the BlackBerry phone’s capabilities like pop-up notifications and deep integration across the whole device.
Since then, the definition of a super app has changed — as has BlackBerry itself. PYMNTS’ Karen Webster has described super apps as being able to “eliminate the friction associated with jumping among the slew of apps with cards on file that consumers use today to get things done, or to fill the gaps in access that exist.” In other words, super apps are apps in which other apps are consolidated.
Not Only Google
Google is far from the only player in the super app arena. PayPal is on track to turning itself into a super app as well. At the company’s investor day in February, EVP and Chief Strategy, Growth and Data Officer Jonathan Auerbach said that the company had “introduced more great products in 2020” than ever, including QR code functionality, buy now pay later (BNPL) options and cryptocurrency integration.
Facebook, too, has super app ambitions as evidenced by its Calibra (now called Novi) announcement in 2019. The social media giant will easily be able to incorporate its other properties including Instagram, Messenger, Kustomer and WhatsApp (already something of a super app itself) and tie them altogether with Diem (formerly Libra), its own cryptocurrency.
Last year, Google Pay added another notch to its super app belt with the announcement that the app would organize payments around people and businesses while also offering savings at hundreds of merchants directly in the app. It also announced that it was creating an integrated mobile-first banking program called Plex that is supposed to be launched this year.
Thursday’s announcement adds or expands two more bits of functionality to the steadily growing app.
The public transportation option, says the company, is set to expand to Chicago and San Francisco, adding to the 80-plus cities in which the app already allows customers to buy and use mobile tickets. Additionally, Google says, for Android users there will soon be a “Ride transit” shortcut on the app’s home screen where people can purchase, top up, or add a transit card that can be used to pay for rides. “Once you purchase a transit card,” says the company in a release, “there’s no need to unlock your phone. Just hold it to the reader and go. In cities without readers, commuters can simply show their visual tickets on their mobile devices.”
In terms of grocery integration, the app will allow users to find weekly grocery deals at Target stores and over 500 Safeway stores nationwide. As long as notification services are enabled through the app, savings opportunities will appear on mobile devices whenever users are near a Safeway or Target if offered.
Shopping at physical locations declined sharply during the pandemic, so it remains to be seen how important a location-based couponing system will be. According to PYMNTS research, digital grocery shopping increased by 400 percent between March and May of last year. While some customers will return to brick-and-mortar locations as vaccinations continue to roll out, many of those who have gone digital intend to keep shopping that way. Google’s link-up with Safeway and Target may indeed be an effort on the part of those companies to get people back into their stores. Time will tell if it works.