Walmart Pay Is Going to Stick It to Apple Pay with … QR Codes?
In the brick-and-mortar world, at least, Walmart is still the retail king. Its stores are everywhere. Its supply chain is a marvel of modern logistics. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Walmart thinks it can achieve one of mobile’s last stumbling blocks: getting people to pay at checkout counters with their phones.
Today Walmart said it’s offering its own mobile payment option, Walmart Pay. The move is curious, given that a little more than a year ago, Walmart famously shunned Apple Pay in favor of a joint effort by a consortium of old-school retailers to launch a competing product called CurrentC. Two things to know about CurrentC: at the moment, it’s still beta-testing in Columbus, Ohio. And it uses QR codes.
Walmart says Walmart Pay will be available in select stores this month, with a nationwide launch scheduled for completion by the first half of 2017.
For Walmart, the big idea here is to offer yet another feature that ties its offline and online shopping experiences together, the crux of its strategy for taking on Amazon.
“The Walmart app was built to make shopping faster and easier,” said Neil Ashe, president of Walmart Global eCommerce. “Walmart Pay is the latest example—and a powerful addition—of how we are transforming the shopping experience by seamlessly connecting online, mobile and stores for the 140 million customers who shop with us weekly.”
The payment service will work on iOS and Android smartphones through Walmart’s mobile app, which the company says has 22 million monthly active users. Who, we’ll say again, will be scanning a QR code displayed at the register during checkout.
Not that we harbor a grudge against QR codes. It’s just that, compared to the slick ease of waving an iPhone over a credit card terminal at Whole Foods or Walgreens, QR codes feel like a blast from the past. The dozen-plus retailers backing CurrentC instead of Apple Pay apparently are reluctant to cede any kind of control to Apple. But Apple Pay is already everywhere and spreading. Resistance seems futile.
In the meantime, Walmart continues to struggle while its biggest rival in retail, Amazon, soars. To stay competitive, Walmart is already testing multiple strategies, including wage hikes, online grocery shopping, and subscription shipping. Still, it’s not clear whether Walmart really needs to make a go of mobile payments on its own. Other efforts to create their own version tech others already did better haven’t worked out so well (Vudu, anyone?) But who knows? Maybe the QR code revival is just around the corner.
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