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Walmart And Target Developing Mobile Wallets, Leaving CurrentC’s Fate Uncertain

These respective mobile pay moves are being positioned as intermediate steps until the industry-wide standard is fully available. But retailers are increasingly going it alone.

Despite participating in a consortium of retailers who pledged to create their own mobile payment service CurrentC, both Walmart and Target appear to be moving forward with their own mobile wallets exclusive to their retail locations.

Walmart rolled out its own branded mobile payment system last week as a feature of the retailer’s app. Since then, Reuters, citing anonymous sources, reported that Target is doing the same, planning their own mobile wallet that will be usable at any Target location.

Details are scant, but it appears that Target has not tested any mobile pay service in-store yet (though the department store chain does accept Apple Pay through the its branded app) and has not fully committed to launching the mobile wallet until further development is completed.

Even with those reservations, the fact that Target is planning a mobile wallet at all puts CurrentC in a curious situation.

CurrentC is the creation of a consortium of retailers called the Merchant Customer Exchange, a group that contains both Target and Walmart, among a large group of others. The idea behind CurrentC was to create a shared mobile wallet, developed with investment from the retailers of the MCX, which could be used at all of the participating companies’ locations.

Earlier this year, however, CurrentC’s foundation seemed to be eroding. Rite Aid, one of the member companies of MCX and an investor in CurrentC, announced that it would begin accepting more mainstream mobile wallets, like Apple Pay and Android Pay, at all of its 4,600 locations. That a major participant in the development of CurrentC would begin compatibility with the competition did not bode well for the still-unreleased CurrentC.

MCX CEO Brian Mooney
MCX CEO Brian Mooney

Those doubts were strengthened when MCX CEO Brian Mooney announced the CurrentC would be delayed into 2016, rather than releasing this year as originally planned. Now, on the eve of 2016, more members of MCX seem to be moving in different directions with regards to mobile payment, leaving the fate of CurrentC up in the air.

That doesn’t mean that CurrentC is dead in the water necessarily. Walmart and Target could simply be responding to the delay by wanting to get in on the mobile payment game without having to wait for the delayed development of the MCX. A statement from Walmart certainly makes it clear that CurrentC could be integrated into Walmart Pay in the future.

“We made a strategic decision to design Walmart Pay to work with almost any smartphone and accept almost any payment type – even allowing for the integration of other mobile wallets in the future,” said Daniel Eckert, SVP of services at Walmart. “The result is an innovation that will make the ease of mobile payments a reality for millions of Americans.”

But the fact that Walmart and Target are investing in the creation of their own mobile wallets suggests that the move is more than just a gamble to take quick advantage of mobile payments while they wait for CurrentC to be launch – that’s something they could do by going the Rite Aid route and simply accepting payment from Apple Pay and other established mobile wallets. Rather, it could signify delays that go much further than just into mid-2016 and at worse, could signify CurrentC never seeing the light of day.

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.