February 11, 2014, 9:38 AM

Google Wallet and Apple’s Passbook: Five Differences Retailers Need to Know

Because Google and Apple dominate the market, it’s crucial for mobile strategies to incorporate both mobile wallet apps.

For retailers, mobile wallets such as Google Wallet and Apple’s Passbook provide opportunities to easily send offers, distribute dynamic loyalty cards, obtain higher conversions, drive more foot traffic and operate cost-effective, location-based marketing.

Research shows consumers, specifically 85% of smartphone owners, see benefits of storing mobile-wallet content on their phones; however, only 19% have noticed retailers offering mobile-wallet-specific content.

Because Google and Apple dominate the market, it’s crucial for mobile strategies to incorporate both mobile wallet apps. Following are key differences that can help determine the best ways to deploy each.

Starting Point:

  • Google Wallet is not native to an operating system, but is available through the Google Play store; it’s also available for iOS in the App Store.
  • Passbook is part of iOS 6 and iOS 7, so the majority of iPhone users already have Passbook; it’s not available to Android users.

Because users are on both operating systems, you’ll want to incorporate both into your marketing strategy. For consumers, it means the majority has access to these tools and just need reasons to use them. 


  • Google Wallet’s template defines specific fields that can be personalized and are common across all users. It also features a continuous scroll, allowing clickable content such as web sites, phone numbers or addresses for consumers to take action.
  • Passbook’s template has defined structure, with the front allowing for personalized content. Consumers have to flip the Pass to receive additional information and access content.

Both apps have similar, yet still differentiated approaches to presenting content, each with design templates. You’ll also want to create personalized experiences with richer and more relevant content customized for both apps. 


  • Google Wallet content lives in the cloud, so consumers with a Google account and the app on their phones can save offers and loyalty cards to Google Wallet. As long as the consumer sees the “Save to Google” button, they can save that content to their Google account and access it in their Google Wallet app. Additionally, users can discover offers or sign-up to loyalty programs directly within the Google Wallet app itself.
  • Passbook Passesare signed and compressed files that sit on phones. There are various ways to get Passes into Passbook, including SMS, e-mail, apps, mobile banner ads, and in iOS 7, users can share Passes with other iPhone users.

It’s important to understand your mobile wallet content distribution strategy and direct users to the right experience. Only display an “Add to Passbook” button if you’re confident consumers will access that link from their iPhones.


  • Google Wallet brings nearby saved offers and loyalty cards to the app’s home screen. Specific store-location data can be assigned to offers or loyalty cards, or retailers can integrate with their existing Google Places account to have all store locations assigned.  Users will also be presented with a Google Now card showing saved loyalty program details when they are nearby stores with opportunities to use them.
  • Passbook can store 10 different latitude-and-longitude locations, and users within 100 meters of those locations will receive notifications. Apple’s new iBeacon technology is integrated into Passbook, allowing new micro-location-based marketing.

Mobile wallets provide powerful location-aware technology, enabling you to reach consumers at the right time and place, with the right content, driving foot traffic into stores.


  • Google Wallet content can be changed with some restrictions; changes are made silently, so consumers aren’t alerted to updates.
  • Passbook content can be changed with little restriction, including color, images, personalization and expiration dates. Once updates are made, notifications can alert consumers.

Mobile wallets have interactive content that can be altered, so you’ll want to deliver engaging content and analyze key insights for more advanced capabilities for retargeting content to increase program effectiveness.

John Haro is chief technology officer of Vibes, a Chicago-based mobile marketing technology company. Follow him on Twitter @johnharo.

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