Over the last several years, a steady stream of companies has introduced some form of a digital wallet: Google, PayPal, Square, Dwolla, Bump Pay and Softcard (formerly Isis), to name a few. Unfortunately, these mobile payment tools have mostly been clunky, funky and junky. They’re a hassle to set up and a huge hassle to use.
But the recent introduction of Apple Pay has finally tilted the equation toward a viable mobile payment solution. It is incredibly easy to set up and remarkably easy to use. I walked into a Whole Foods market last week, held my phone up to the terminal and pushed my thumb on the home button. Payment complete. Wow!
The rest of the banking and retailing community better pay attention. Apple Pay isn’t the only game in town, but it is currently the headliner. So far, competing systems aren’t showing even the slightest pulse
Retailer-backed CurrentC, which is set to go live in 2015, hopes to change that. Yet, despite the backing of Best Buy, Walmart and about 50 others that are part of the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), it already appears shaky. Like other mobile payment apps, it requires a separate app, a QR code, and too many steps and hassles to make it worthwhile.
When it takes five times longer to use a digital wallet than your credit card, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one the consumer will choose. Hint: plastic.
In addition, CurrentC has already endured a serious security breach.
Of course, CurrentC members can’t see the writing on the wall, and they won’t accept reality until the payment system is forced to change … or fails.
Rite Aid and CVS have already disabled Apple Pay, even though they have the technical capability to accept payments. (CurrentC currently prohibits members from using any other mobile payment system). Also disturbing: When I stepped into a Best Buy store and inquired about Apple Pay, I was told it lacks adequate security, which is complete nonsense.
CurrentC and other mobile payment players better wake up to the fact that this isn’t an either/or situation, and avoiding swipe fees and harvesting user data don’t matter if consumers ignore your system. Multiple players can coexist, and attempting to force consumers to choose is a zero-sum game, especially when the competitor has a better product.
The Merchant Customer Exchange better figure out how to make mobile payments painlessly simple, á la Apple. Otherwise, the market will move ahead and leave them chewing on digital applesauce.