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Walmart seizes mobile payment opportunity with own cross-device wallet

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December 10, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.04.34 AMWatch out Starbucks and Apple Pay. The nation’s largest retailer today launches the Walmart Pay mobile wallet to meet customers’ demands and address the lack of open solutions usable across devices and payment types.

Beginning today in select stores, Walmart Pay is available in the retailer’s mobile application – which currently boasts more than 22 million monthly users – and usable across numerous devices as well as credit, debit, prepaid and gift cards. The news could significantly redraw the mobile payments landscape, which, so far, has been dominated by technology companies and Starbucks.

“What our customers want the ability to do is they want to pay with whatever device they have, whatever payment type they have, in our stores,” said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of global ecommerce at Walmart Stores. “So we created Walmart Pay to satisfy that objective.

“Walmart Pay is around adding a feature to our app to improve our checkout experience in our stores,” he said. “It is really around improving those capabilities with a solution that brings the Web into our stores through the mobile app to make a better, more convenient and fast shopping experience.”

In-store checkout
Following the rollout in a few stores today, Walmart Pay will begin a beta launch in select markets across the country soon after the holidays, with Walmart expecting to complete a national rollout in the first half of 2016.

During a conference call to announce Walmart Pay, executives explained that its customers are looking for a way to improve the overall checkout experience. However, with no open mobile wallet solutions available to them that could help accomplish this, Walmart decided to build its own wallet.

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The retailer was also careful to differentiate Walmart Pay from CurrentC, the mobile wallet developed by MCX, a consortium of retailers that includes Walmart.

The latter, which is currently in pilot in Columbus, OH, was designed to work across multiple retailers while Walmart Pay is specifically meant to help the retailer improve the in-store experience for its customers.

“Our goal is simple – to help make customers’ checkout easier by creating a fast, simple and secure mobile payment solution that almost anyone with a smartphone can access and enjoy,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of Walmart U.S.

“With this news, we are the only retailer to offer our own mobile payment capability that works with any iOS or android device at any checkout lane and with any major credit, debit, prepaid or Walmart gift card” he said.

Software solution
To use Walmart Pay, customers open the app at checkout, activate the scanning capability and scan a unique QR code that appears on the debit reader or on the self-checkout registers.

“It is very similar to what our customers are already doing in the Walmart app today, for example with Savings Catcher,” Mr. Eckert said.

“We’ve used that technology because we know it can be deployed across our 5,000 plus stores in a way that folks can understand and easily engage with it,” he said.

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The app connects the customer’s basket to his or her preferred payment method on Walmart.com, effectively bringing the Web into the store checkout experience.

Users can choose from multiple payment types and set up specific payment preferences.

For example, customers can set up their accounts to use any gift card balances first before touching a credit or debit card.

Shoppers can also choose to pay for part of their purchase via cash at the register and the rest via Walmart Pay.

Built to grow
For customers who are already using the Walmart app or have a Walmart.com account, they can simply open the app, login and tap Walmart Pay. The app will pull down any existing payment types already associated with the account, with users able to pick which they want to use as a default for Walmart Pay.

Walmart Pay has been built to allow it to grow and change as the payments space continues to evolve. For example, other mobile wallets can be integrated into it in the future.

The executives said the retailer is waiting to see how other wallets mature in the marketplace before deciding which ones to integrate into Walmart Pay.

The news comes as Walmart continues to see mobile use grow by its customers.

“We had a tremendous use of mobile over the holiday season,” Mr. Ashe said. “Literally, tens of millions of our customers are using mobile on a regular basis, adding a much deeper penetration rate than the rest of the industry.

“Over half of our online orders this holiday season were placed on a mobile device,” he said.

Payments landscape
Walmart’s decision to launch its own app comes at a time when mobile payments are growing, but at a snail’s pace. A number of competing solutions, each with its own set of limitations, are available, including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, Chase Pay and PayPal, but with consumer demand to date having been limited, there is no clear dominant player.

The Walmart Pay solution suggests that consumer demand for mobile payments may have grown to the point where a wide swath of consumers is looking for these solutions.
“It is important to note that Walmart is not about improving payment just for payment’s sake,” Mr. Ashe said. “It is about how we can use payment to create a better shopping experience for our customers in our stores.

“When we looked across all of the solutions that are out there, many of them are limited only to certain types of phones or certain device operating systems or to certain payment types and, in some instances, all three of those constraints are put upon a customer,” he said.

“We needed a solution that offered multiple payment access to as many of our customers as possible.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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