Google’s announcement last month that it is integrating Google Wallet into Gmail for Android users is big news, not just for the millions of Gmail users who can now send money right from their email, but also for the email industry itself.
In fact, it’s one of the biggest endorsement to date in email’s role as a highly valued and essential aspect of everyday life.
I spent a few years at Google before I assumed a leadership role at Adestra. Email is dear to me, and I have enjoyed seeing email providers take what was once a basic peer-to-peer communications channel and integrate new functionalities, such as chat and messaging.
But now, by adding payments, we’re taking email to a new and previously unimaginable level, and it’s got ESPs (email service providers) salivating at the possibilities.
The email address rules digital. Here’s how:
Why is it that Gmail is so confident that email is secure enough to send money from one person to another? Because you know the person on the other end. It’s what makes email the central hub of digital marketing — a user’s email address is the key to digital identification across all channels.
Your email address is what you use to log into your device — desktop, tablet, phone — as well as apps, websites and accounts. When you buy a new device, the first thing Android or iOS/Apple asks after you choose your language is your email address.
That’s because after you register your email address, the operating system can log you in securely to your Google Play or App Store accounts. Google and Apple have a database on everything you purchase from them, everything you looked at, where you’ve been and a whole host of other data points that they then append to your new device and its device ID.
When you want to link a device to a person, there’s no better way than with the email address. Even a biometric like a fingerprint is linked to the user’s email address.
The email address has such a high confidence level that Google is certain it knows who’s behind the address that allows them to send money.
Email beats cookies for personal IDs
Google’s move supports what those of us in the ESP industry have always known: that email is not just a channel, but also a personal form of identification superior to the industry-standard cookie, whose value is deteriorating thanks to the boom in blocking and browser privacy.
A cookie, essentially, is just a proxy for a machine. The email address is a proxy for an individual, which means marketers must work harder to acquire primary, active email addresses.
This focus on securing high-quality email addresses is one of the key tenets of “First-Person Marketing,” a new perspective on digital marketing in which brands view their email databases not as millions of data records, but as a collection of individuals to whom they must shape their messaging to reflect their personal needs, interests and goals.
So, advertisers are buying Facebook based not on cookie pools, but on email addresses. Cookies aren’t as accurate as email addresses at identifying individuals. The cookie IDs the machine or the browser. An email address tells you who’s seeing your ads.
Two years ago, you would have been laughed out of the room if you had tried to buy Facebook or Google ads using email addresses as identifiers. Now, it’s the trend. Who’s laughing now?
Three cheers for Google’s boost to Gmail
Adding Google Wallet to Gmail reinforces another industry principle: email is seeing a resurgence thanks to new functionalities. Data scientists, IT gurus and digital marketers alike are coming to understand what we in the industry and our subscribers have been saying, often to deaf ears: email is an essential and valuable part of everyday life.
A sneak preview of findings from the forthcoming Consumer Adoption & Behavior Study to be published by Adestra reinforces this concept:
- Consumers have an average of 3.2 personal and business email addresses per person.
- 73 percent prefer email over SMS, direct mail and app notifications for communicating with businesses.
- 78 percent of 14- to 24-year-olds say they have email addresses because email is part of everyday life.
In the end, Google’s integration of Google Wallet into Gmail will help make email stickier. We’ll see the impact spread slowly throughout the industry, because Google is rolling it out gradually. Right now, a user must be logged into the Gmail app on an Android device to send money.
Coming soon: Buy directly from Gmail?
Right now, capability is limited to peer-to-peer transactions, but we see a big opportunity for e-commerce and other transactions once Google expands the capability to iOS and other devices.
What if I could send my mother flowers for her birthday right from a florist’s email message instead of clicking through to the website and purchasing there? If I know what I want, if I don’t want to shop around or compare prices, email will be able to facilitate that for me.
Now, think about the percentage of the world’s population with money in the bank but no access to credit cards. This can open new commercial vistas here and in barter and gray-market economies, as well.
Security is an issue — but not with Gmail
You might wonder, given all the massive email breaches, hacks and phishing scandals that plague the headlines, whether email is a secure medium. But Gmail isn’t vulnerable the way so many other email systems are; Google ensures that.
Gmail as an email client is the best use case for email. It’s user-friendly. It hasn’t been hacked.
Email is not just here to stay, but an essential tool to help you live an easier life. It’s an archive, too. Try searching your SMS, Facebook and WhatsApp messages for that piece of information your friend or colleague sent you. I have. It’s not fun.
Email lives forever. It never died. And, now, it pays you. I’m in!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.