Wal-mart Snubs NFC and Google Wallet

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Mike Cook, Senior Vice-President and Assistant Treasurer of Wal-Mart, has recently turned his back on Google Wallet and NFC payment solutions, apparently seeing no business value in those solutions. In his opinion, NFC will not become a technology that will handle payments in a retail environment. As for Google Wallet, Square and Isis, Cook had no interest in sharing consumer and transaction data with additional partners, stating: "Many of the models out there today are just adding another mouth to feed."

Why does Cook's opinion matter? Mike Cook has been dubbed as "the most powerful man in payments" as he is in charge of managing all the cash, credit and coupons of the world's largest retailer. Thus, any investment made by Wal-mart in mobile payments is sure to make an impact on the industry as a whole.

According to Cook, Wal-mart is only interested in MCX (Merchant Customer Exchange), a merchant- backed mobile payment platform. MCX is backed by about a dozen large retailers in the US, including Gap Inc., Dllard's Inc., Bed Bath & Beyond and Dunkin' Brands. The consortium came about due to dissatisfaction from retailers about current mobile payments solutions, citing concerns over the long-term viability of NFC, the upfront costs of upgrading point-of-sale terminals to accept NFC technology as well as the reluctance to share customer data to third parties such as Google and other mobile carriers.

MCX has had its own roadblocks, however, with no actual merchant solution available yet. In addition, a timeframe for release has not been announced either. Furthermore, some retailers, like Kohl's, are reluctant to join the consortium due to Wal-mart's close involvement in its development.

The slow adoption of NFC in the US will not necessarily hinder adoption elsewhere on the globe, however. For example, just within the first six months of 2012, NFC technology has already been used to process over 4.5 billion rubles worth of mobile payments in Russia.

Comments

  1. Frans Reitsma

    It looks like all participants in these type of associations are only interested in defending their own interest, not the end-user.
    So we may need to create a solution outside the present boxes!

    1. Alyssa

      Thanks for your comment Frans. Given that there are so many players entering the market to defend their own interests, the only way we’re probably going to see a real winner in the payments sphere is if a 3rd party, unrelated to payment providers and merchants, comes up with a standardized solution that works with all the forms of payments cropping up. Would be interesting to watch who will be the one to come up with that solution

  2. Thibaut

    One should not forget that NFC for payment is only the emerging part of the iceberg… One of NFC’s most value-adding usage is to use it in-store to augment the shoppers’ experience, increase experience, bridge the brick & mortar with the mobile or ecommerce. I hope Walmart does not think of NFC only for payments, because it’s probably there whole distribution and customer experience that they will have to transform in order to stay ahead of competition in the coming years.

    1. Alyssa

      Good point Thibaut. NFC is being adopted in so many other ways beyond payments outside of the US, but for some reason the biggest players in the US, from Apple to Walmart, fail to see its commercial value.

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