Walmart rolls out Walmart Pay in Arkansas stores, early customer reviews mixed

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 74 views 

As promised Walmart is rolling out Walmart Pay, its version of mobile pay, to more than 600 stores in Arkansas and Texas, the retail giant noted Monday (May 16).

The mobile pay option works with either Apple iOS or Android smartphone via the retailer’s mobile app which can be downloaded at the Apple and Google Stores. Residents in Northwest Arkansas have had the option of Walmart at several test stores after the retailer announced the service in December.

The service allows shoppers to use almost all major credit and debit cards, prepaid cards and Walmart gifts as payment options when using Walmart Pay. At the register a customer must have their Walmart Pay app opened, which activates the phone camera. The shopper has to activate the payment option by pointing the camera at the code displayed at the register. The cashier will scan and bag the items and if the service is working the transaction will be completed at once. There is no paper receipt when paying using Walmart Pay. An e-receipt will be sent to the shopper through the app.

“We can’t wait to hear what our customers and associates in Arkansas think of Walmart Pay. The service was built to make shopping easier and faster, something we know our customers want,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president-services, Walmart U.S. “Walmart Pay is a powerful addition to our app, a tool that we’re using to transform the shopping experience by seamlessly connecting our online assets and our stores for customers. The service opens the door to new and better ways we can serve the 140 million customers who shop our stores each week.”

Talk Business & Politics tried to use Walmart Pay on three separate occasions in Northwest Arkansas. Having a credit balance from Savings Catcher that had been uploaded to a Walmart gift card on the mobile app, we were required to link another payment form to the service, which was a debit card.

Checking out a small purchase at a Neighborhood Market and a Supercenter in Bentonville the cashiers in both cases did not how it worked. We wanted to activate the gift card first, and pay the residual with the debit card, but when trying to scan the Walmart Pay code at the register the service would not connect. Rather than hold up the line, we opted to pay by card.

On a third attempt to use the service, we went through a self-check area and scanned the Walmart Pay code first thing, scanned and bagged the items and totaled the sale. The app immediately used the gift card credit and put the remaining balance on the debit card on file. The e-receipt was sent via the mobile app two days later.  Talk Business & Politics found the service worked seamlessly at the self-check area, where there was no cashier involved.

Other comments on the WalmartPay Twitter Feed Monday (May 16) were also mixed on the new service:
• Chris McCracken: @Walmart stop wasting time w/ this #WalmartPay silliness. Support #ApplePay & #AndroidPay. You’re “solution” is unnecessarily cumbersome.

• Mario Elizalde: #Walmartpay with iPhone is great only drawback is guy at the door still insisted on checking my items and was annoyed I didn’t have a receipt.

• Stephanie @ Red Rose said:  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE #WALMARTPAY ! It will freeze up register and then @walmart associates will make fun of you for “trying2use your phone”

• Melodie Beveridge: used #WalmartPay twice today. Awesome! receipt sent to my phone. Took me straight to the saving catcher

• SN3MO ‏@jcowens24: First experience with @Walmart pay. Uninformed staff, e-receipt worked, but payment didn’t work. Had to insert card anyway. #walmartpay #fail

Walmart says there are more than 20 million active users of its mobile app each month, which is a huge user base but that doesn’t mean consumers will activate and use Mobile Pay.

Forrester predicts that by 2019, mobile payments will account for just 1% of all payment transactions.

Ryan King, CEO of Guardian Payment Systems in Fort Smith, said consumers have no real incentive to use mobile pay because it’s not faster than swiping a card. He said if a person trys to use the service and there are bugs in the system, they are less likely to try again. He said there will always be fast adopters eager to try the newest thing, but he doesn’t think mobile pay will become mainstream even for Walmart in the next decade.

King said retailers have every reason to try and come up with a new widely accepted payment form to help level the playing field with credit card processors like Visa. But consumers are largely creatures of habit and without some real incentive they are not likely to switch from swiping a card to activating a mobile app at checkout.

That said retail experts largely applaud Walmart for testing this new payment method. Carol Spieckerman, CEO of Spieckeman Retail, has characterized mobile pay in the U.S. like days in the Wild West with various payment platforms jockeying for position amid skittish consumer sentiment from recent data breaches. She said Walmart implementing its own solution for mobile pay is a smart move, even if they decide to integrate additional payment solutions (like Apple Pay) at a later time.

“Doing so affords Walmart the opportunity to get customers acquainted with, and possibly addicted to, its solution initially. If the solution is easy to use and as shopper trust is developed, Walmart will have the opportunity to serve up personalized promotions and suggestions that will keep customers in its ecosystem and potentially drive incremental sales,” she added.

Spieckerman said the advantages of Walmart being an early mover far outweigh any potential downside.

“For consumers, having to navigate an increasingly fragmented mobile payment landscape could prove tedious until the inevitable consolidation of solutions occurs.”

Jason Long, CEO of Shift Marketing Group, agreed with Spieckerman’s assessment.

“It’s good for Walmart to get moving on this. Adoption will be slow, but there will be a tipping point at some point down the road where consumers will expect to make payment with their smartphone. Retailers that don’t offer a smart solution will be at a competitive disadvantage,” Long said.

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