By Sruthi Ramakrishnan & Nandita Bose
(Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc launched its own mobile payment service Walmart Pay on Thursday, potentially dealing a sharp blow to the ambitions of a mobile wallet the company had been co-developing with a consortium of retailers.
The mobile payments space in the U.S. has seen a flurry of new launches & partnerships in the past year yet has failed to gain traction as customer & merchant adoption have been sluggish.
CurrentC – whose developers included Wal-Mart, Target Corp & Best Buy Co Inc among others – was likely to prove strong competition to Apple Inc's Apple Pay because it was developed as a single payment solution that could be used at many retailers & integrate their loyalty programs.
But years of delay, a data breach & management changes injure its prospects. An increasingly bigger worry for CurrentC is the end of its exclusive partnership with most of its members, which means they can now accept other mobile payment options at their stores.
Best Buy & Rite Aid already accept Apple Pay & Alphabet Inc's Android Pay. Target accepts Apple Pay in its mobile app & a company spokesman said it is exploring additional mobile wallet options without giving details.
A spokesman for CurrentC said that despite the launch of Walmart Pay, Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, continues to be a "strong & supportive partner" & they are working on a national launch of that service with the retailer as its partner.
A survey released by data firm InfoScout found Apple Pay use to be at its lowest rate since the firm started tracking it. Shoppers used it this past Black Friday for only 2.7 percent of eligible transactions.
"There has been a lot of hype & advertising in this space yet there are no clear winners … market share is still up for grabs," said Kevin Grieve, partner & head of the North American cards & payments practice at Strategy&, part of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Walmart Pay, which will be a part of the retailer's mobile application, will be available on Apple & Android devices & allow payments with any major credit, debit, pre-paid or Walmart gift cards, the company said.
Walmart Pay requires customers to select the payment option within the retailer's mobile app at a checkout counter, activate their phone camera & scan the code displayed at the register after which an e-receipt will be sent to the app.
Walmart Pay was introduced in select U.S. stores & is expected to be available nationwide by the first half of 2016. The service will moreover allow adding other payment options such as mobile wallets in the future.
(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru & Nandita Bose in Chicago; Additional reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel & Alan Crosby)