Arkansas Retailers, Merchants Join Forces to Develop Digital Wallet

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 12:00 am  

There isn’t yet a digital wallet application that allows customers of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to pay for items while receiving offers from their smartphones.

But it’s just a matter of time.

The Bentonville retailer — along with other companies, including Dillard’s Inc. of Little Rock — has invested in a private company in Dallas, Merchant Customer Exchange, to create one. Their alliance, called MCX, was announced in August.

“We view mobile commerce as an opportunity to improve the shopping and purchasing experience for both customers and for merchants, making it faster, more convenient and less expensive,” Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in an email to Arkansas Business.

MCX hasn’t announced a timetable for unveiling its app, said MCX spokesman Jeremy Mullman. And details like what the app will do and how it will look are still being developed.

The goal of MCX is to create a standard digital wallet that customers use to make payments at a multitude of businesses. Currently depending on where a person lives, there could be 10 businesses that accept payment from smartphones but six different platforms.

Some of the platforms involve swiping a barcode on the phone’s screen, as with Starbucks’ app. Or the payment could be made by waving the smartphone over the point of sale by using NFC, or Near Field Communication, technology.

With MCX, a customer will be able to get gas at 7-11 or a Shell station, pick up coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and buy items at Wal-Mart, all the with same payment method, Mullman said.

“If all those things are on the same platform … then it starts to make sense,” he said. “And it’s not as confusing. And that’s what spurs adoption for consumers.”

Hargrove said the idea was to make purchases using the smartphone as easy as possible.

“More people are using their smartphones for more than just texting or talking,” he said.

The merchants using MCX will be able to customize offers to the consumers who want to hear from them, Mullman said. For example, there might be a notification sent to the in-store customer about a sale item on aisle four.



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