Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s app is close to surpassing Apple Pay in usage for mobile payments in the U.S., giving the world’s largest retailer even more clout as a growing number of people shop with their smartphones.Market researcher Richard Crone predicted that Walmart Pay will grow bigger than Apple Pay in active U.S. users (who use the mobile wallets for at least two transactions per month) by the end of 2018. Walmart and Apple reportedly held discussions in early 2016 that centered upon incorporating Apple Pay into the Walmart iOS app, but fell through because of the "difficulty of blending the technology underpinning each company's approach."
“If daily enrollments don’t slow down, I think that’s pretty well in the cards shortly,” said Eckert, senior vice president for services and digital acceleration. “I would have to imagine we are getting pretty close.”
Walmart is said to have begun gaining ground on Apple earlier in 2017, when 5.1 percent of Walmart shoppers said they used Walmart Pay this past June, just below the 5.5 percent of iPhone users who said the same at locations that accept Apple Pay. In terms of other competitors, Walmart Pay's adoption rate is "higher than Samsung Pay and Android Pay combined." One analyst pointed out this is likely because Walmart owns and controls the mobile wallet software and "can make quick changes."
“Apple Pay’s road is much more difficult than Wal-Mart’s is,” Brendan Miller, an analyst at Forrester Research, said in a phone interview. “It means that Wal-Mart can make quicker changes, they can move faster in many respects than Apple Pay.” Forrester’s survey of 58,000 online consumers in the first half of 2017 found that 7 percent of them used Apple Pay in the past three months, while 6 percent used Walmart Pay.Although the services are similar in their payment goals, there are a few differences between Walmart Pay and Apple Pay. Walmart's mobile wallet presents users with a barcode that has to be scanned to complete a transaction, unlike Apple Pay's NFC tap-based system. Walmart Pay also incorporates all of a user's in-store offers, promotions, rewards, and gift card balances in one place, which Apple Pay is still inconsistent in supporting for many stores.
Despite their close rivalry in the mobile wallet space, Walmart is reportedly "more interested" in directly competing with Amazon than Apple. Over the past year, Amazon has been expanding quickly in the grocery space with its various test projects like Amazon Go and its acquisition of Whole Foods. Walmart said it will continue focusing on expanding the features of Walmart Pay as more competition emerges, and according to Crone the debut of the software has provided a solid launchpad for the company's future: "They flawlessly deployed the system, and it works."
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