Retailers Team Up to Develop Mobile Wallet

7-Eleven, Alon, Shell, Sunoco join Walmart, Target, others in payments enterprise

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

DALLAS -- The nations' top retailers, including c-store leaders 7-Eleven, Alon, Shell and Sunoco, have teamed up with cross-channel giants Walmart, Target and CVS on the issue of mobile payment, announcing the creation of a company charged with developing a single platform.

The Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) is heavily in development of its mobile application, with the initial focus being a mobile-commerce solution capable of seamlessly integrating a wide range of consumer offers, promotions and retail programs. The goal is to make the application available through virtually any smartphone.

"Merchants understand the shopping-and-paying experience," Jeremy Mullman, spokesperson for MCX, told CSP Daily News. "They get it."

Going up against announced projects from Mountain View, Calif.-based Google; "Isis," the phone carries' alternative based in New York; and online payment company PayPal, San Jose, Calif., MCX includes merchants such as 7-Eleven Inc., Dallas; Alon Brands, Dallas; Best Buy Co. Inc., Richfield, Minn.; CVS/pharmacy, Woonsocket, R.I.; Darden Restaurants, Orlando, Fla.; HMSHost, Bethesda, Md.; Hy-Vee Inc., West Des Moines, Iowa; Lowe's, Mooresville, N.C.; Publix Super Markets Inc., Lakeland, Fla.; Sears Holdings, Hoffman Estates, Ill.; Shell Oil Products U.S., Houston; Sunoco Inc., Philadelphia; Target Corp., Minneapolis; and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark.

Combined, these initial members serve nearly every smartphone-enabled American and account for approximately $1 trillion in annual sales, MCX officials said..

"If you look at the diversity and range of participating merchants, the breadth is striking," Mullman said. "Ultimately, we'll have a mobile platform that works well not just at the c-store counter or for fuel but at fine-dining restaurants or Lowe's or Best Buy. If the consumer uses it and it feels seamless, that's what gains traction."

While current MCX merchants have scale, MCX officials said it intends to address the needs of financial institutions and merchants of all sizes as well as consumers.

"MCX will leverage mobile technology to give consumers a faster and more convenient shopping experience while eliminating unnecessary costs for all stakeholders," said Mike Cook, corporate vice president and assistant treasurer for Wal-Mart. "The MCX platform will employ secure technology to deliver an efficiency-enhancing mobile solution available to all merchant categories, including retail stores, casual dining, petroleum and e-commerce."

Terry Scully, president of financial and retail services for Target, said, "We believe MCX is uniquely qualified to offer the most comprehensive mobile payment options for consumers. By participating in MCX, merchants are in a position to effectively deliver innovative payment approaches that aren't available today."

And Mark Williams, president of financial services for Best Buy, said, "As merchants, no one understands our customers' shopping and payment experience better than we do, and we're confident that together we can develop a technology solution that makes that experience more engaging, convenient and efficient."

MCX said it expects to announce additional members during the coming months.

The new mobile-payments efforts already is running behind rivals such as the Google and its "Google Wallet," which began operating last year on the technology company's Android devices, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Isis, a collaboration of mobile carriers AT&T Inc., New York; Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA Inc. unit, Bellevue, Wash., and the New York-based Verizon Wireless' joint venture between Verizon Communications and the U.K.'s Vodafone Group will start trials later this summer in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas.

And in another sign of the growing interest in mobile payments, startup Square Inc., San Francisco, said Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. is investing $25 million in the company and will use its technology to eventually process all credit and debit transactions at about 7,000 Starbucks outlets in the United States (see Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage).

The proliferation of mobile-payments systems might confuse consumers, skeptics say. But according to the Journal, participants say the rival efforts reflect a predicament: Each industry needs the other to make mobile payments succeed, but each group wants to lead the way.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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