MCX Founding Member Best Buy Supports Rival Apple Pay
Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) finally is nearing its midyear launch of CurrentC, a mobile payments wallet app in development since 2012 by a consortium of 70 U.S. retail brand marketers. But this week electronics giant Best Buy Co., a founding member of MCX along with Walmart, surprised observers with news that it’s supporting Apple Pay on its Website, and adding POS support later this year. Best Buy on Monday announced its support of Apple Pay. A Best Buy spokesperson tells Paybefore the company also is sticking with MCX. MCX in September said it plans to launch CurrentC nationally this year; media reports suggest it will be this summer, following a pilot.
Best Buy’s move has raised the question among observers of whether its dual partnership in Apple Pay and CurrentC suggests faltering commitment to MCX. Is there a problem?
Not necessarily, according to analysts. Winning over Best Buy is a coup for Apple and could go a long way toward helping Apple Pay—which launched in October with relatively few participating merchants—gain much-needed traction at the POS. More than one MCX participant already is accepting Apple Pay, Rick Oglesby, research director with Double Diamond Group, tells Paybefore. “Best Buy as an electronics retailer has more reason to accept Apple Pay and other wallets than most retailers,” he notes, pointing to the intense competition in commodity-based businesses. And Best Buy may not be the only big merchant to align with Apple Pay; Walmart earlier this year said it was open to considering Apple Pay, according to reports.
MCX: Exclusivity is Limited
MCX members Rite Aid and CVS/pharmacy both disabled support for Apple Pay shortly after the service launched, underscoring the notion that CurrentC required exclusive support from participants. In an emailed statement to Paybefore, MCX Chief Operating Officer Scott Rankin clarifies that MCX merchants do agree to exclusivity, but those arrangements are not permanent. “The provisions are designed to expire and as such, are limited in both time and scope,” he explains. “MCX strongly supports our merchant partners’ quest to do what’s best for their customers…we are of the firm belief that there need to be at least two to three major players within the mobile payments ecosystem for it to succeed,” Rankin adds.
That makes good business sense, Steve Mott, an analyst with BetterBuyDesign, tells Paybefore. “The exclusivity idea was a logical way for MCX to get started with a new product in the heady period of the first generation of mobile wallets, but it was inevitable that large merchants eventually would take Apple Pay if it caught on with consumers,” he explains. “Now, knowing that consumer adoption of mobile wallets is going to be a long, uphill climb for everyone—including Apple—there’s less need to incubate or protect a nascent system like CurrentC.”
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