Is Bigger Better for Mobile Payment Apps?

Imagine a world where relevant, personalized deals come to your phone at your discretion while you shop, eat, and play. Imagine a world where you don’t have to carry a wallet or purse with you because your Smartphone can buy you whatever you want, wherever you are. Imagine a world without payment fees, without those pesky printed receipts. Maybe even without having to wait in line!

That could be our collective future as the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a mobile commerce app, looks to launch in the near future. The MCX is a coalition of leading, large-scale merchants including CVS/pharmacy, ExxonMobil, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lowe’s, Old Navy, Target, Walmart, and Southwest, with many more heavy hitters signing up seemingly by the day. The coalition’s goal is to allow shoppers to use their Smartphones to pay for items at participating merchants, while offering branded interfaces and features unique to each merchant. Amidst the bevy of mobile payment options arising, MCX clearly stands out; it’s the big kid in the lunch line. Two in three Americans own a Smartphone, and ALL of them already shop the participating merchant set.

But, does bigger mean better in this case? Pain-free purchasing is a win-win of course, but there are some downsides that the MCX will have to account for in order to own the soon-to-be flooded mobile payments space. First, what about the little guys? With shoppers’ love for all things local, will the boutique, the mom & pop, the innovative start-up, and the hip local spot be left behind? Do they lose out because they don’t have the resources of the MCX powerhouses? The big kid can quickly become the big bully if a strategy isn’t in place to be inclusive of the little guys.

And then there’s the security/privacy debate that all mobile payment players have to address. Consumers may be fatigued with all the big brother going on, even if it gives them innovative perks. Which leads to the collusion factor. If all the big guys are in-cahoots, will quality, service, and prices suffer? Consumers are already skeptical of the decency and intentions of large corporations, and MCX could potentially perpetuate the divide.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is a real need being solved here? History has proven that the masses will only change behavior if something better comes along that solves a real problem. The jury is out on whether a one-stop mobile payment platform will meet that criteria.

With all this in mind, we are rooting for you MCX. We want to see shoppers have seamless, efficient, user-centric purchase experiences. We want to see all the extra fees associated with payment systems and unnecessary paper eliminated. Just don’t forget that “mobile first” actually means “user first” to make your magic happen.