Walmart Pay, the mobile-payments app developed by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is now broadly available to consumers as part of version 6.8 of the retailing titan’s shopping app, introduced this week for Apple Inc. smart phones.
The app update, available on the iTunes store, says Walmart Pay will be “available in all stores soon,” without being more specific. Since the mobile wallet’s introduction in December, acceptance has been limited. Currently, more than 100 stores in northwest Arkansas, Kansas City, and other areas of Missouri are accepting Walmart Pay, according to a Wal-Mart spokesperson. Chainwide acceptance will be complete “this summer,” she adds.
Walmart Pay is part of the popular shopping app, which Wal-Mart says is used by 22 million customers and works with both Apple and Android devices. As of Friday, however, the update including Walmart Pay had been posted only on the iTunes store, with an older version of the shopping app shown on Google Play. An Android update is coming “shortly,” says the spokesperson.
With availability now on iTunes, Wal-Mart expects uptake of the mobile wallet will increase rapidly. “So far, we’ve gotten great feedback” from consumers, says the spokesperson.
Wal-Mart’s wallet competes with a broad range of mobile-payments services introduced or announced in recent months by major tech companies, merchants, and financial institutions, including Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. Apple launched Apple Pay in October 2014, while Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. introduced their services in September.
By mid-year, banking giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. is expected to launch Chase Pay, a mobile wallet that will immediately incorporate payment credentials for 94 million Chase card accounts as well as the accounts held by the CurrentC mobile-payments service run by Merchant Customer Exchange LLC, a merchant-controlled entity of which Wal-Mart is an owner.
These rival services are exerting considerable pressure on major retailers like Wal-Mart, expert say. “It’s…clear that merchants want control over their mobile channel, and that solutions that are controlled by third parties aren’t going to cut the mustard for sophisticated merchants,” says Rick Oglesby in an email message to Digital Transactions News. Oglesby is president of AZ Payments Group LLC and a senior analyst for Centennial, Colo.-based Double Diamond Payments Research.
But Wal-Mart and other major retailers with sizable investments in brick-and-mortar stores are also responding to recent shifts in shopping behavior that threaten to make in-store shopping less competitive, Oglesby says. “Large merchants want mobile payments and other mobile services. In fact, they need them to compete with Amazon and others,” he says. “They simply must provide more compelling, more unique experiences if they are going to continue to entice consumers to come into their stores when all of the products they sell are readily available online with free shipping and very rapid delivery.”
Walmart Pay works with quick-response codes to let customers connect their phones to readers at checkout counters. Users can load all major-brand credit and debit cards into the wallet, along with Wal-Mart gift and prepaid cards, but they cannot link checking accounts. The app also allows users to track transactions and store receipts, but it cannot be used to buy fuel.
Access is protected by a PIN code or by biometric identifier.