Mobile Pay has been a hot topic in the retail sector, especially as consumers become more comfortable using their phones to complete simple tasks like depositing checks, ordering online or hailing a cab.
A consortium of retailers from Wal-Mart and Target to CVS Pharmacy are working on their own versions of mobile pay for the past three years. CurrentC was developed under the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) with input from the retail consortium. This new mobile pay option is ready for beta testing in roughly a half dozen stores in the Columbus, Ohio, market, according to Brian Mooney, CEO of the exchange.
"We are currently in a beta with several of our merchants and employees, and we will now extend that beta to the public in the next few weeks," Mooney recently told Reuters.
He did not provide specifics about timing or name the participating retailers. MCX's 40 merchant partners operate nearly 110,000 retail locations and process about $1 trillion in purchases every year.
The mobile pay platform lets shoppers pay for their items using their phones and joins Apple Pay as well as Google Wallet which have been in the market for several months. Acceptance of mobile pay has been slow by consumers, at the same time smart phone usage on the whole has continued to escalate.
“We have been listening to what our customers want in this area. Adoption has been slow, but over time it will happen,” Neil Ashe, CEO of Walmart Global E-commerce, has said about the technology.
He said Wal-Mart is building mobile pay capability into its mobile app and in-store technology so it can be turned on when the time is right and the customer says they want it.
“We will probably do something with mobile pay in the future, just not right now,” Ashe said in June. “We have invested a significant amount of effort into the development of CurrentC and that consortium and their product. We feel like they have made great progress down the path. Wal-Mart will start to test some of those things and you will see us do more and more of that over the next year or so.”
Ashe said the way Wal-Mart plans to win is to integrate technology throughout the entire business and merge e-commerce and in-store capabilities seamlessly so the customer gets what they want, and when and how they want it.
An informal sampling from consumers by The City Wire regarding CurrentC and other mobile pay options indicates there is resistance to adoption. While there were no millennials in this informal survey cohort, the respondents between the ages of 35 to 70 said they were “not interested” in using mobile pay when shopping brick and mortar retailers. The biggest reason for the disinterest was the fear of hackers.
However, a respondent in Portland, Oregon, said as a new resident in that city she’s noticed more consumers are using mobile pay and though she doesn’t have it yet, it is something she plans to adopt in the future.
Another survey by Verifone Systems Inc. released in January found that mobile wallets accounted for about 4% of overall payments for U.S. in-store retail transactions.
Mooney said adoption has been slow but said CurrentC hopes to improve customer adoption rates by offering shoppers loyalty rewards every time they use their phone to make a payment, a feature most of its competitors do not offer. He said retailers who offer the CurrentC service also will be able to reduce their card processing fees charged by existing networks which can range from 1% to 3% of the transaction amount.