Jessica Leber

A View from Jessica Leber

The Mobile Money Battle Gets Physical

Large merchants are joining forces in the battle over who controls smartphone payments

  • August 15, 2012

Walmart, Target, 7-11 and Best Buy are among more than a dozen merchants joining together today to launch their own network that would give customers the ability to pay for purchases on their smartphones, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

The new network’s name, the Merchant Customer Exchange, is of the dry variety you’d expect in the field of payments, however the fierce competition in this emerging market is anything but. In March, Walmart’s vice president and assistant treasurer Mike Cook did not mince words in explaining why his company balks at prospect of sharing its customers private—and highly-valuable—data with the growing number of companies offering mobile payment services (see “The Most Powerful Man in Payments”): 

“Would you want some telco provider or some technology provider knowing all of your prescription goods that you purchased at Walgreens or Walmart?,” he said.

Aside from privacy issues, companies like Walmart want neither Google, PayPal, Verizon, AT&T nor a bevy of heavily-funded startups to have a view into that same competitive data, which could happen if their costumers use another company’s app or touch-to-tap technology on their smartphone (see “Battle of the Electronic Wallets”) to pay for goods. Mobile wallets are also a way for stores to offer real-time deals to shoppers, and merchants don’t want to have another company control that communication.

Few people pay with their phones today, and Walmart’s Cook is quite skeptical the technology will catch on widely soon. But for Walmart to join forces with its competitor Target, it must be more than a little worried. 

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