Google Spot and existing e-commerce sites

Google Spot “enables merchants to create branded commercial experiences that bridge the offline and online worlds”. The Google Pay team recently announced opening their early access program to the broader community. This blog post is intended for e-commerce platforms or merchant developers to give them a bit more information to decide if they should look into Google Spot further.

Availability

Google Spot is currently only in India for a small number of early access partners. As such, it may be too early for you to consider for your own site. However if you are interested in being on the leading edge and want to potentially influence its direction, consider signing up for the early access program linked from the announcement above.

How to interact with Google Spots?

Google Spot is a part of the native Google Pay app you can get on your mobile device. You can find “Spots” inside the app, or you can scan or tap (with a NFC enabled phone) a “Spot Code” (a circular QR-like code) to navigate directly to that Spot.

How does it work?

Merchants host their own website (a “Spot”) designed to operate within the Google Pay app. That is, the website is not a general public website – it is specifically designed to work with a web view within the Google Pay app. 

This website has the equivalent of a homepage that scanning a Spot Code may take the user to or if the user opens the Spot from within the Google Pay app. From there the user can browse or search to find what they wished to purchase.

Another approach is to launch your Spot on Google Pay with a deep link to a specific product with a Spot Code. This works by encoding the URL to a product page on your website into the Spot Code.

The product page may include a “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” button. The difference is when it comes to checkout, a JavaScript API is provided to the page for prompting the shopper for payment. The payment flow is performed by the Google Pay native app, not by the website. The website specifies details about the payment provider they have a relationship with, then is given a transaction code if the payment goes through. 

The website is then responsible to submit an order to the Merchants backend systems, recording the order and payment details.

Once submitted, the website makes another JavaScript API call to give the Google Pay app a copy of the receipt. This is kept within the device for the shopper to view and later return to.

How to build a Spot?

The Google Spot Platform leaves a lot of flexibility to the developer. A Spot is just a website with HTML, JavaScript etc. The only difference is a JavaScript API is provided to communicate with the Google Pay app. Frameworks like React and Vue can be used to create the website. The site just needs to be publicly accessible on the web.

What about my existing e-commerce platform?

My personal opinion is a Google Spot would be a new storefront to your existing backend. It would fetch product information from the existing e-commerce platform product information database. It would submit orders to the existing order management system. A Google Spot is just another frontend, similar to if you wanted to build a chat or voice interface to the site. Another example of the “headless commerce” trend for e-commerce platforms.

Another approach however is to layer a Google Spot over your existing website. Have the checkout flow detect if running as a Google Spot and bypass the normal payments web interface, using the Google Spot JavaScript payment request API instead. Lots of room for experimentation for sure!

Conclusions

Google Spots create some interesting possibilities for bridging from the offline world to the online. There is the requirement that shoppers have the Google Pay app installed to use the Google Spot Platform, but it has been interesting watching the rapid change in China towards QR-code based purchasing. Even street hawkers have QR codes to receive online payments directly into their account. In fact, payments via cash or credit card are becoming less common.

What I personally find particularly appealing is that payments are relatively straightforward to implement without the security risk of hosting payments code on your own site. 

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