What is Walmart Pay and will it impact other mobile wallets that are already on the market?

Walmart Pay is a mobile wallet app (yes, another mobile wallet app) that’s now launched across the majority of Walmart stores throughout the US.  It’s been in trials for a while in selected markets and finally making it’s big debut – in time for back to school and holiday shopping.

Paypal, Android Wallet and Apple Pay are the big three mobile wallets.

None of these require you to be in Walmart to use them; as a matter of fact you can’t use them in Walmart at the moment.  Which, I suppose, makes some kind of weird sense.

Walmart is suing Visa (again) right now, over the EMV cards that don’t require a PIN number to use, and Visa is countersuing Walmart for requiring a PIN to use the EMV cards in some of their terminals.   It’s a never ending battle to determine who is going to pay what in card swipe, debit, PIN, etc transactions.  The ill fated MCX/CurrentC debacle, which never got off the ground, is another casualty in this long running war.

How does Walmart Pay differ from mobile wallets on the market now?

Aside from the restriction that it’s only available at Walmart, they’ve taken a strange stance on the technology they are using to power their sales.  Rather than going with NFC, Bluetooth or some other electronic device pairing mechanism, they’re going old school: QR codes.

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Yes, that’s right – QR codes.  We love QR codes, they are an option for installing our passes onto mobile wallets that accept (Apple Wallet, several Android wallet apps) them quickly and easily, especially if the user isn’t reading about the offer on their mobile phone directly.

According to the Walmart website, the process goes like this:

  • Open a Walmart.com account.
  • Add a credit or debit card via that account.  Store cards and prepaid accounts are also eligible.

This next part is a little interesting –

  • After entering their unique 4-digit security PIN or using Touch ID, they’ll hold their phone over the QR code to scan.

So I guess they are leveraging Apple Touch ID for iPhones that have it?  They’re making their app compatible with that SDK?

  • The associate then totals the transaction, the customer gets an audio and push notification that their transaction is complete and they are sent a receipt to mobile.

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It’s a pretty safe bet that it’s not going to hurt Paypal, Apple Pay or Android Pay.

What it could do is boost the usage of QR codes, make people understand how to use them more efficiently and cause them to trend upwards as a means of imparting information to mobile phones – that would be fine for every one of the mobile wallets in use now, since more than one has the QR code option for installation.

(Technically they all have the option if they rely on a link or numeric string entry or anything else that can be transmitted from one device to another).