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Take that Apple: Walmart Pay rolls out in American stores

Mobile payment system lets Walmart collect more info on shopper behaviour

Walmart-pay

Walmart will now let customers pay with its phone app at all 4,600 stores in the United States.

The effort is part of Walmart’s strategy to make shopping easier and faster, while learning more about consumer behaviour.

There’s no word yet when Walmart Pay will launch in Canada.

With Walmart Pay, the cashier scans a QR code on the phone screen to charge a credit, debit or Walmart gift card linked with the account. It differs from Apple, Samsung and Android Pay, which involves tapping the phone next to a payment machine with a wireless technology called NFC, or near field communication.

READ: Mobile payment expected to rise this year

In December, Walmart said it would develop its own digital wallet rather than honour existing systems from Apple and others, though Wal-Mart said it isn’t ruling out third-party wallets in the future.

Retailers have been pushing their own systems in part because they retain control.

Daniel Eckert, senior vice-president of services at Walmart U.S., said data from the app will be used to improve the shopping experience.

How? One way, he said, would be to use past shopping behaviour to build a personalized shopping list. The customer could then delete or add items. He said such features would be done only with a customer’s permission.

Walmart joined other retailers in backing CurrentC, a system that was also based on scanning codes rather than NFC.

But the beta test of the system faltered as Apple Pay became more popular. The consortium last week suspended its launch indefinitely, saying it plans to focus on other aspects of its business.

Apple Pay, in particular, has been credited with boosting interest in mobile payments, though many consumers still use traditional plastic cards because it’s not difficult to pull one out.

READ: Shoppers Drug Mart and Metro get loyalty right, say consumers

Although the number of stores accepting NFC payments has grown, it’s still relatively low, and the stores with the right equipment still need cashiers familiar with it.

Walmart says no payment information is stored on users’ phones or at registers. Rather, card information is stored on Walmart servers.

By contrast, Apple, Samsung and Android Pay use alternative card numbers for added security, so if hackers break into a merchant’s system, they wouldn’t be able to go on a buying spree.

Walmart uses regular card numbers, but it insists it keeps the information secure.

Walmart Pay is built into Walmart’s app, which has 20 million active users.

The Bentonville, Ark., company finished upgrading stores in 25 states last week to complete the national rollout. Eckert said 88% Walmart Pay transactions are from repeat users.

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