The Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) this week broke months of official silence to announce that the group's long anticipated mobile wallet app will be called CurrentC. The consortium of U.S. retailers -- including Sears, 7-Eleven, Target and Walmart -- has long been a dark horse in the mobile wallet wars. Mobile payments from the app will be accepted at the over 50 MCX member retail chains, which collectively control roughly one-fifth of domestic in-store transaction dollars (see chart, below).
MCX also confirmed that the wallet app had already launched in a private pilot, a move BI Intelligence first reported in June. A wide release is expected sometime next year.
MCXOther highlights we gleaned from yesterday's announcement:
- The Rails: The wallet can be funded by linking bank accounts, gift cards, and some co-branded credit and debit store cards -- all cheaper for retailers to accept than typical credit and debit transactions. Other payment options "will be available in the coming months," MCX says.
- The Technology: Though the MCX announcement studiously avoids the words "barcode" or "QR code," it hints that merchants will in fact use optical readers to accept payment. The app uses a "secure paycode" that merchants can read "with a single scan."
- The Pitch: MCX retailers will use offers and rewards to incentivize customers to pay with the app. For merchants, the benefits are "new and exciting channels to engage with customers, (strengthened) relationships, and ... more control of transaction data," MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson said in statement.
- The Surprise: CurrentC will be a single MCX wallet app from the get-go, according to the announcement. This is a reversal from what many industry insiders expected, with the common wisdom holding that each retailer would initially control their own payment app in order to avoid sharing data with competitors. It's unclear how that obstacle was overcome with the CurrentC app, but we'll share more as we learn.
The timing of the announcement -- which included few hard details except for the name of the wallet and a logo design (see above, right) -- is likely no coincidence.
With just days remaining before Apple's expected mobile wallet announcement on September 9, potential competitors have little time left to add their names to the hat before mobile payments gets an unprecedented level of public exposure.