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Wal-Mart launches its own take on mobile pay

In the latest bid to make its stores more convenient, Wal-Mart on Thursday is rolling out a new mobile payment solution, called Walmart Pay, that enables shoppers to check out at its stores via a quick three-step process.

Built as an add-on to the retailer's mobile app, shoppers first link their preferred payment method to their Walmart.com account. Options include paying via credit, debit, prepaid or Wal-Mart gift card. When customers arrive at the register, a QR code will pop up at the payment terminal.

From there, shoppers open the Wal-Mart app, enable their smartphone camera via the Walmart Pay option, and scan the unique QR code. That will trigger the retailer's app to process the payment.

Wal-Mart is billing the capability, which is made possible via a proprietary software upgrade on its point-of-sale systems, as the first time a retailer has offered this type of mobile payment solution.

"We're really working hard to create a seamless shopping experience," said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of global e-commerce at Wal-Mart.

According to comScore, more than 22 million people use Wal-Mart's mobile app each month. What's more, Ashe said more than half of the online orders placed with Wal-Mart from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday were conducted on mobile devices, representing a larger penetration than the overall industry.

He added that Wal-Mart's technology is unique in that it enables shoppers with nearly any type of smartphone to use its payment option. That stands in contrast to systems such as Apple Pay or Android Pay, which are only available on certain devices.

While Walmart Pay has been built so that Apple Pay or a similar system could be integrated in the future, there is not yet a specific plan to do so, Ashe said. The executive also reiterated Wal-Mart's commitment to MCX's CurrentC payment platform, with which it and 12 other retailers are involved in an active pilot.

Despite all the conversation surrounding mobile pay, it's been slow to take off. According to the latest report by Forrester Research, mobile payments are expected to account for roughly $67 billion in revenue this year. In-person payments still account for a small chunk of that total, at an anticipated $6.8 billion, according to Forrester.

Starbucks is by and large considered a frontrunner in the space, because of the seamless integration of its proprietary payment system and loyalty program in its mobile app.

"It's a fully integrated experience program," Mark Taylor, an expert on digital customer experience at Capgemini Consulting, said prior to Wal-Mart's announcement.

As the technology improves and becomes more widely adopted, Forrester expects mobile payments to account for $142 billion in sales by 2019.

Wal-Mart's solution begins the first phase of rollout at a handful of stores in its home market of Bentonville, Arkansas, on Thursday. After the holiday rush, the retailer will push out a second round of tests in markets on the East and West coasts, and in the middle of the U.S.

Walmart Pay will make its final push to all of its U.S. Supercenters and Neighborhood markets in the first half of 2016.