Yesterday Walmart rolled out their own payment system called Walmart Pay. Its aim is to get Walmart shoppers to start paying with their phones. As for phone payments, I support Walmart for trying to get on board with what is so clearly the way of the future. However, as I snidely remarked on Twitter, I think how they pursued this goal is a waste of time and money for the mega-retailer.
My primary concern is that this is a proprietary payment system that you can only use at Walmart. You can use your credit or debit card at any store you please, and the process is the same no matter where you’re shopping. Maybe you have a loyalty card at one or two stores, and maybe you use a coupon app like Target’s Cartwheel or Starbuck’s stars system to get perks, but 95% of your purchases are paid with the same exact plastic card no matter where you are shopping. There is a beautiful simplicity in that, and it’s lost with proprietary payments systems like Walmart Pay.
The future is not everyone having 30 different stores’ apps on your phone so you can leave your wallet at home when you go out shopping. Doing some quick mental math, I frequent at least a dozen stores regularly, and probably go to 50 or so more shops throughout a year. I’m not going to install a new app for each one of those stores, that would be insane! And yet, if more companies pursue proprietary systems like Walmart Pay, this is the future we can look forward to.
What kills me about this is that there is already a good solution out there that works and companies like Walmart are ignoring it. I’m speaking of course of NFC payments. Apple Pay, Android Pay, and even Samsung Pay are all easier to use, faster, and just overall better experiences than any proprietary systems I’ve seen out there. Walmart’s app requires me to find the app on my phone, open it, go to the payments page in the app, and bring up a QR code to present to the cashier to scan. This is very similar to my experience with CurrentC last year at Target, which I found more than a little lacking.
By comparison, the use of an NFC payment system like Apple Pay is built into my phone, so all I have to do is hold my phone up to the card reader with my fingerprint on the hime button and I’m done. I don’t have to find a specific app to launch, and I don’t even have to unlock the phone. It’s such a quick interaction that blows any app-based payment system out of the water.
Maybe Walmart’s rationale is that there aren’t enough phones out there with NFC built in to take advantage of Apple/Android/Smasung Pay, and they want to reach as many people as possible, but ultimately that’s a lame excuse as well. The 5 most recent iPhone models support Apple Pay, Android Pay is rolling out to a bunch of phones that had NFC built in years ago, and Samsung is selling a ton of Galaxy phones with their payments system built in. The people who are more likely to take advantage of a “pay with your phone” system are more often than not the same people who upgrade their phone more often and probably have a phone with these NFC payment systems built in.
It will be interesting to see how Walmart Pay does in the coming months, but I suspect this will end up being a big waste of time and money for the company. NFC payments haven’t taken over the world overnight, but I still think they are a better, and more future-proofed solution that what we’re seeing from companies like Walmart.