Walmart is removing the need to get your wallet out at the register with a new digital payment method called Walmart Pay.
Launching today in select stores in Bentonville, Ark., where Walmart is headquartered, the feature allows customers to pay for purchases in stores by scanning a QR code displayed at the register with their smartphone, instead of swiping or inserting a card at the payment terminal. Customers can store any payment method — credit card, debit card, prepaid card or gift card — in the Walmart Pay function within the Walmart app. At checkout, users open the Walmart app, select Walmart Pay and use their camera to scan a QR code on the card reader. The code automatically associates the chosen payment method with the customer’s basket and completes the transaction.
“We’re making it as simple to pay in the store as it is to pay online,” says Neil Ashe, Walmart’s CEO of global e-commerce.
The feature is Walmart’s latest bid to reduce the friction that can come from shopping in stores and better serve mobile customers, who are increasingly making up a larger portion of retailers’ customer bases.
This year’s holiday shopping season has seen mobile orders and browsing soar as consumers have become more comfortable shopping on their smartphones. Nearly half of Walmart’s online orders over Thanksgiving weekend came from mobile devices, and customers in stores used the app at nearly twice the rate they did during the same period last year, Walmart executives said. The retailer’s app has 22 million active users.
Walmart is hoping the payment feature — which is expected to be in all stores nationwide by the first half of 2016 — will help drive loyalty with shoppers by making “the app even more valuable to our customer,” and helping the company “build a deeper relationship with them,” Ashe says. But while it may make the checkout process faster and more convenient for customers, some question how much Walmart Pay will help the retailer’s underlying business.
“It’s not a game-changer, in my opinion,” says Brian Yarbrough, consumer research analyst with Edward Jones. “It’s not going to drive more customers to Walmart.”
Walmart doesn’t currently accept any type of mobile wallet, such as Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. The company developed Walmart Pay as a solution that works across devices, operating systems and payment types.
“We needed a solution that offered mobile payment access to as many of our customers as possible,” says Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of services for Walmart U.S.
Still, the new payment function is also a possible indication that Walmart could integrate with Apple Pay in the future. Walmart Pay has the ability to integrate with other mobile wallets as a preferred payment type, Eckert says, though Walmart hasn’t struck up any specific partnerships at this time.
At the same time, Walmart Pay comes on top of Walmart’s involvement with a retailer-backed group called Merchant Customer Exchange that is testing its own mobile wallet, called CurrentC, which also relies on QR codes to process purchases. Walmart Pay isn’t meant to override those efforts, Ashe says, and Eckert stresses that the two payment options are “really different solutions,” given CurrentC can be used by multiple retailers.
Walmart Pay will also let customers do things like split their payment between multiple payment types and add their Savings Catcher balances as a payment type. Savings Catcher is a Walmart app service that allows customers to upload pictures of their receipts and then scans those receipts to see if competitors offered lower prices on any items. If they did, Walmart refunds the difference with an e-gift card.