Payments consultant Aaron McPherson, distinctly unimpressed with his first experience of using Walmart Pay, believes there are lessons here for other mobile payment players.
Recently I was asked for comment on the new Walmart Pay service, which has gotten some favorable coverage, and felt that it was important to actually use it before saying too much about it. I finally got a chance to use it last week, and what follows are my impressions, with some side thoughts about how they apply to mobile wallets more generally.
Enrollment Is Through Walmart.com
I started by downloading the Walmart app, which requires you to have a Walmart.com account. First problem is having to go outside the app to sign up; since I don’t like using the mobile browser on my phone if I can avoid it, I had to wait until I was in front of my computer.
Next, you have to register a method of payment for your Walmart.com account. I was pleased that it accepted my Visa rewards card; I had thought that perhaps Walmart would insist on steering me toward ACH or a debit card, but it appears that any major credit card will work.
Back in the app, I entered my newly created user ID and password, and I was asked to create a PIN to secure my account. After creating the PIN, I was offered the option of using TouchID instead, and I agreed. I was now ready to go. The Walmart Pay icon is located below the bottom edge of the screen, but it is there on the front page. If Walmart is serious about getting people to try Walmart Pay, they might consider moving it up a bit.
Integration With Walmart.com Can Be Confusing
In general, the app appears to be heavily reliant on the mobile site; for example, when I was in the store and searched up printer ink, the app did tell me what aisle it was in, and presented me with a prominent button to “Add to Cart”. I pressed the button, thinking that perhaps it was part of some sort of fast checkout feature, but instead was given the option to order the ink for delivery. Why would I want home delivery when I am already in the store? Walmart Pay seems to have been designed to leverage the traffic on Walmart.com, but at the cost of a natural in-store experience.
Checkout: The Real Test
I got my printer ink and went to the register. There was signage at the terminal explaining how to use Walmart pay, and when my order was rung up, a QR code displayed on the terminal.
At this point, you need to click on the Walmart Pay icon on your phone, give permission to access your camera, and center the screen on the QR code. Once recognized, the app tells you it is “Connected” and to wait for the cashier to complete your checkout.
Training Doesn't Stick Without Practice
Here's where the process broke down; the cashier had trouble remembering the proper sequence of key presses to close out the transaction. She was very nice, and did eventually get it after three or four tries, but when I suggested that she probably didn’t get many people using Walmart Pay, she ruefully agreed.
I had the familiar feeling that if I hadn’t felt a professional obligation to try out Walmart Pay, I probably wouldn’t have. The main problem, and I think this is common to most mobile wallets, is that there’s really no incentive to use Walmart Pay. I didn’t get a discount; I didn’t get my order rung up faster (in fact, it was much slower); and I had to register for an account and worry about getting Walmart spam.
Where Are The Coupons?
I was surprised that there seemed to be no coupon integration in the app. Perhaps that’s because I haven’t used it enough, but if you compare the Walmart app with the Dunkin Donuts app, Dunkin Donuts always has two or three offers loaded to tempt you to try something new. The Dunkin app is tightly integrated with a rewards program, so you get credit for your purchases toward a free beverage. Why didn’t Walmart even try to suggest things I might want with my ink, such as printer paper? Why didn’t Walmart give me some points or a follow-up coupon?
After more than ten years of experimentation, I think it has been conclusively proven that the mere ability to use your phone to pay is not enough to drive adoption. Apple Pay has been out for two years now, and still has minuscule adoption numbers.
Perhaps this is just the beginning. Perhaps coupon integration and rewards are on the way. But I have to say I was disappointed that the world’s mightiest retailer, with full access to SKU data (stock keeping unit - the product-level info), wasn’t able to deliver an incentive to use the product. I find myself unsure what exactly the point of Walmart Pay is. It doesn’t save Walmart any money, as far as I can tell, because it doesn’t force you to load a gift card like the Starbucks and Dunkin apps do. It doesn’t upsell you, because there are no context-sensitive coupons.
The app did prompt me to offer feedback, but only by bringing up a blank e-mail. If I’m going to spend time typing out my feedback, I’m at least going to use it for a blog. So there you have it. Am I missing something? Let me know in the comments.
Aaron McPherson is an independent consultant specialising in the analysis and forecasting of payment industry trends. He was previously responsible for leading global payment strategy at FIS during a crucial three-year transition period focused on creating a market-based competitive strategy. Over the prior twelve years, Mr. McPherson built the Global Payments research practice into the most successful service at IDC Financial Insights, winning numerous research quality awards. He lives in Newton, Massachusetts with his wife and three children.