As mobile devices and digital currency play an ever-increasing role in retail, the Merchant Customer Exchange has unveiled a new mobile wallet called CurrentC, which already has the backing of big-box retailers such as Walmart (NYSE:WMT), Target (NYSE:TGT) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY).
Like a Swiss army knife, CurrentC is intended to have numerous purposes and functions. The app affords a new way for customers to integrate member loyalty cards, as well as a means of distributing, storing and redeeming digital coupons and special offers. CurrentC is expected to become an integral component of MCX members' store-specific mobile apps, according to GigaOm.
"The CurrentC Network will provide merchants with unparalleled reach and resources in the mobile payments category," said MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson. "At full scale, CurrentC will be accepted in more than 110,000 merchant locations across the country, giving customers unmatched access to their favorite retailers…. It will offer merchants new and exciting channels to engage with customers, strengthen relationships and enjoy more control of transaction data."
CurrentC holds ipromise, thanks to MXC's membership of approximately 110,000 retail locations, including eateries such as Olive Garden and Dunkin' Donuts, apparel retailers such as Gap, convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, and even airport and airline concession companies such as HMSHost.
Fundamentally, the payment network is designed to provide retailers large and small with a cost-effective way onto the trending mobile payment bandwagon.
CurrentC's functionality stems from the use of digital QR codes generated by its smartphone app, meaning data such as credit card information isn't stored in the phone, but will instead remain in the cloud. The app will utilize a token system in which each token verifies shoppers' presence and identity before triggering the transaction between the store and the bank.
Users can access the entire CurrentC network and all of its benefits by using the CurrentC app or a merchant's mobile app that utilizes the CurrentC network, according to an MCX company statement.
The app is currently in the pilot stage, but it will be free to download through the App Store and Google Play. It is compatible with "major smartphones," and users will be able to automatically apply exclusive offers, coupons and promotions during the payment process. They will also be able to organize all participating merchant loyalty cards and membership accounts (again, quite a few) in one app.
However, the enormous reach of the new network doesn't suggest an immediate monopoly. After Apple's announcement of the newly launched iPhone 6, the tech developer also iterated plans to partner with Walgreens (NYSE:WAG) and CVS (NYSE:CVS) as it develops its own payment network.
Unlike CurrentC, which uses a barcode system, Apple Pay is using a new wireless technology called Near Field Communication (NFC), a first for Apple (NASDAQ:APPL). NFC only requires waving or tapping a phone during checkout and may utilize fingerprint identification.
Presumably, CVS will still accept CurrentC in addition to the wallet. Apple Pay will register lower, "card present" transaction fees thanks to an agreement between Apple and card-issuing banks that have the support of American Express, Visa and MasterCard.
MCX argues that the barcode system, as opposed to NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), gives merchants an easier way to integrate with existing POS systems, keeping costs down, according to Finextra.
A regional and national rollout of CurrentC is slated for 2015.
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