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Commerce Weekly: U.S. merchants take on mobile payment

U.S. retailers launch a mobile payments network, tech is driving the future of shopping, and East vs West Coast shopping stereotypes.

Merchants enter mobile payment arena

With mobile payments on the brink of booming, everyone is angling to get in the game, from payment companies like PayPal and Square to mobile carrier ventures like Isis and Vodaphone to Internet giants like Google. This week, a group of U.S. retailers announced they were taking payment matters into their own hands and planning a joint merchant mobile payments network called Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). And there are some big players involved.

Robin Sidel at The Wall Street Journal reports that 14 merchants have signed on so far, including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, 7-Eleven, and Lowe’s. Wal-Mart corporate VP and assistant treasurer told Sidel, “We’re open to all partners, but it has to be beneficial to member merchants in a way that improves the system and doesn’t layer on additional costs.”

Saving money appears to be one major motivator behind the new network. Ryan Kim at GigaOm asserts that member merchants are setting themselves up to save money in multiple ways. He writes:

By banding together, they may be able to get better interchange fees from the credit card networks. And in a mobile wallet, they may be able to steer consumers to use their own issued cards or prepaid gift cards. And if an issued card is pulling funds directly from a bank account, they can avoid card fees. You might see retailers offer deals on the spot for consumers who fund a purchase using their bank account through their mobile wallet.

Kim also notes that by launching their own system, the retailers will retain control over their own data and keep it out of third-party hands, pointing out that “Google, for example, is trying to get at the purchase data through Google Wallet.”

No launch date has yet been set for MCX, and Sidel reports that the search for a CEO is underway.

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