Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, has refused to accept Apple Pay, Android Pay and other mobile payment services at its stores for more than a year. Now, it's digging its heels in and launching its own mobile payment system called — what else? — Walmart Pay.
The new checkout option will exist within Walmart's current app, which has 22 million active monthly users, executives told reporters during a live video briefing on Wednesday.
Walmart Pay will conduct transactions by scanning QR codes, versus the tap-and-go technology used by Apple and Google. The new Walmart system will display a code on the checkout screen, which the Walmart app reads using the phone camera. It's similar to the very successful mobile payment system rolled out by Starbucks — although at Starbucks, a code on the phone screen is scanned at the checkout.
Walmart Pay will roll out to a handful markets after the holiday season and launch nationwide in the first half of next year.
A different feel from the Apple Pay launch
Walmart wanted something "as seamless as possible," Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services for Walmart U.S. said in the presentation. With today's offerings, "the customer has constraints put upon them and that creates frictions and seams in the shopping experience."
The retailer said Walmart Pay is built in such a way that it can integrate other mobile payment providers in the future. But the real takeaway is that the company is not ready to work with today's major mobile payment services from Apple and Google. That reluctance is striking, given the sluggish development of the Apple Pay rival that Walmart has been working on in a consortium with many of America's biggest merchants.
Since 2012, Walmart has led the grouping of retailers and restaurants known as MCX in creating a competitor to Apple Pay, in the hope controlling the kind of technology it has to install at checkout lines (and avoiding billions in credit card fees).
But CurrentC, the app produced by MCX, only just started testing in Columbus, Ohio, and consortium members like Best Buy, Kohl's and Rite Aid have broken ranks and started accepting Apple Pay in recent months.
Neil Ashe, Walmart's CEO for global e-commerce, said Wednesday that Walmart Pay came together in "a few short months." If that's the case, that means the company decided to pursue the project just as CurrentC started public tests in August, and MCX's exclusivity agreements with retailers expired, as per the Wall Street Journal.
"We continue to be committed to MCX and the CurrentC app, but they're really different solutions," Eckert said.
Both executives highlighted the fact that Walmart Pay will work across both iOS and Android devices and take credit cards, prepaid debit cards, regular debit cards and gift cards.
"The beauty of Walmart Pay is its simplicity and the fact that it works with almost any telephone and almost any payment type," Ashe said.