Wal-Mart Pay doesn't need loyalty and that's ok

| by Will Hernandez
Wal-Mart Pay doesn't need loyalty and that's ok

Daniel Eckert, SVP of Wal-Mart Services, gives the opening keynote at the CONNECT Mobile Innovation Summit last week in Chicago.

Time is a currency in our customers' lives.

Daniel Eckert made this statement when he answered a question from an audience member after a keynote address to start the recent CONNECT Mobile Innovation Summit in Chicago. The question: Does Wal-Mart plan to add a loyalty component to the new Walmart Pay, which is a new feature inside the retailer's mobile app.

"We're all about engaging consumers and not based on any loyalty scheme," said Eckert, who is the senior vice president of Wal-Mart Services. "Time is a currency in our customers' lives. Saving the customer time is just as valuable as [giving them a discount]. We saw the value [in Walmart Pay] with time and convenience versus a loyalty scheme."

Eckert's answer is in some ways the complete opposite of what you'll hear most industry observers say about loyalty schemes baked into mobile wallets. Even I have championed such an approach on multiple occasions throughout the years.

But Eckert has a valid point and that's made me question loyalty's importance with mobile wallets.

His statement shows us there's no one-size-fits-all approach at the moment for mobile loyalty, payments and wallets. But Eckert's comments came sandwiched between two significant developments with mobile payments and loyalty over the last couple of weeks.

CVS Pharmacy two weeks ago added CVS Pay as a payments feature within its mobile app. The announcement wasn't a surprise as CVS is an original member of the Customer Merchant Exchange and does not currently accept NFC-based mobile wallets. If you remember, it turned off contactless acceptance at the point of sale two years ago when Apple Pay debuted because the pharmacy chain was waiting for MCX to make its move.

CVS Pay's highlight is the all-in-one, single-tap way transaction that marries the payment and loyalty. Users can link their ExtraCare loyalty account to the app and all eligible discounts are automatically applied when payment is made.

That feature is likely one that would have been at the center of CurrentC.

In keeping with the pharmacy theme, Walgreens announced that its loyalty users could add their accounts to Android Pay. The move eliminates the need for consumers to separately scan or enter their loyalty number at the point of sale.

Both announcements show loyalty's true potential when linked to a mobile-payment system, but how impactful is it for consumers?

During his keynote, Eckert said that Walmart Pay is more about improving the checkout experience at Wal-Mart stores than anything else.

"We didn't do this for payment," he said. "We did it for improving the checkout. The feedback we're getting is that it works for our customers. They know intuitively how it can help them."

Now, that might sound like a bunch of marketing talk, but Wal-Mart does have some stats to back that claim.

Eckert said four out of five customers would recommend Walmart Pay to their family and friends and some 90 percent of Walmart Pay transactions come from repeat Walmart Pay users.

It's clear Wal-Mart customers find value in it even if they're not getting something tangible in return. What does that say about mobile payments/wallets and loyalty going forward?

Here's something I'll leave you with to ponder.

I recently interviewed PayToo CEO Michel Poignant for a sponsored piece of content on Mobile Payments Today about what's missing today from mobile wallets. He made a lot of valid points, mainly how there remains very little meaningful incentive for consumers to adopt mobile wallets as a replacement for traditional payment methods such as credit and debits cards — or even cash.

"With mobile wallets today, we're taking what we have in our physical wallet [plastic cards] and storing it in a smartphone electronically. Tell me why this is new and tell me why this helps consumers," Poignant said.

It really doesn't and that's not something most mobile wallet providers will readily admit. The current mobile wallet war is really a small skirmish over something no one seems to be able to identify. But it doesn't appear as though consumers are benefiting just yet.


Topics: Mobile Payments



Will Hernandez

Will Hernandez has 14 years of experience ranging from newspapers to wire services and trade publications. Before becoming Editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, he spent two years as the content manager for PaymentsJournal.com, a leading payments industry news aggregator and information hub published by Mercator Advisory Group. Will spent four years covering the payments industry as an associate editor for multiple publications in SourceMedia's Payments Group based in Chicago.

View Will Hernandez's profile on LinkedIn

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