There’s already Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay. Now there’s one more to add to the list: Walmart Pay.
While mobile payments have been somewhat slow to catch on, Walmart is hoping to change that with its own system — the first retailer-specific payment option of its kind. Walmart Pay, which is accessible through its smartphone app in the form of a QR code that is scanned at the checkout lane, is launching Thursday in select stores. Walmart plans to roll it out nationwide in the first half of 2016.
The entry of the world’s largest retailer into the mobile wallet wars can’t help but shake up the landscape that has been largely fragmented and piecemeal to date.
While there are other options on the market, Walmart’s executives noted that many of them are limited to certain phone models, payment types and operating systems — Apple or Android.
“We needed a solution that offered mobile payment access to as many of our customers as possible,” Daniel Eckert, Walmart’s senior vice president of services in the U.S., said on a conference call with reporters.
Walmart Pay can be used on virtually any smartphone and can be synced up with any major credit, debit, prepaid or Walmart gift card. Customers also can apply the money they’ve accrued on Walmart’s Savings Catcher app to Walmart Pay.
Customers do not have to pay in full through Walmart Pay. For example, they can use gift cards or cash to pay for part of the purchase and pay the rest with the mobile payment.
In addition to being fast and simple, Walmart executives touted the new system as a way to deepen loyalty with the retailer’s customers and to make its app more valuable to shoppers. The company noted that 22 million customers a month already actively use the Walmart app, which is ranked among the top three retail apps in terms of usage.
“You wonder at some point if they are trying to build a whole ecosystem like Apple,” said Brian Yarbrough, an analyst with Edward Jones.
Still, the one glaring limitation of Walmart Pay is that it can only be used in Walmart stores. Executives noted, though, that the system has been built so other mobile wallets can easily be integrated into it in the future.
Walmart does not currently accept Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or other forms of mobile payments in its stores. But a company spokesman said the retailer has not ruled them out.
Walmart currently is participating in a pilot project of another mobile payment system called CurrentC, which is a joint venture of a coalition of retailers called the Merchant Customer Exchange. CurrentC is being tested in select Columbus, Ohio, stores, including Walmart and Target, and is expected to roll out to more markets next year.
A Walmart spokesman said the company sees CurrentC as complementary to Walmart Pay.
Best Buy also is part of the retail coalition behind CurrentC. But that hasn’t stopped the Richfield-based retailer from implementing other mobile payment systems in its stores. The electronics chain began accepting Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay in all of its stores in October.
“We want to give customers the opportunity to pay how they want to pay,” said Jeff Shelman, a company spokesman.
Meanwhile Minneapolis-based Target has prioritized installing chip-based readers in its stores before it jumps into the mobile payment space. The chain does not yet support Samsung or Apple Pay in its stores.
While consumers are showing more interest in lookup deals and product reviews on their smartphones while shopping, they haven’t shown as much enthusiasm for mobile-based payments. In a recent holiday shopping survey by consulting firm A.T. Kearney, 65 percent of respondents said they don’t plan to use mobile payments this year. And among those that did, only half of them said they would use it regularly.
Part of the holdup in adoption is that retailers are still building out the infrastructure to accept mobile payments, said Dan Farmer, an A.T. Kearney principal and co-author of the study. Another hurdle is that consumers don’t always see the value in them.
“They just don’t understand the benefits of them,” he said.
One advantage is that they can be quicker than using chip-based card readers, which are also being rolled out in stores and often take a bit longer to use in the check-out lane.
“And then there’s the convenience of not having to carry your card and another piece of your wallet,” he said.