Mid-Atlantic grocery chain Harris Teeter (NYSE:HTSI) will be launching its own special-purpose mobile payments system, with testing beginning this month at a single store in Matthews, N.C.
The "HT Express Pay" app, which is available for iOS or Android phones, will allow customers to pay for online grocery orders that they pick up at curbside. Once the customer has put credit- or debit-card information in a cloud-based repository, the customer can drive up to the curb for pick up, where a store associate will display a QR code on a mobile point-of-sale device. When the customer points her smartphone's camera at the QR code and selects the card to use for payment, the transaction will be completed.
The mobile-payments part of the app is provided by vendor Paydiant, which is also managing the back-end transactions. Later this year, Harris Teeter plans to also accept payments using other mobile wallets that use Paydiant's technology, the vendor said. The mobile wallet may also be added to Harris Teeter's primary mobile app if the pilot test is successful.
The challenge for the test isn't whether the technology will work, but whether customers will accept it. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), PayPal (NASDAQ:EBAY) and other payments companies have tried to put the equivalent of a contactless credit card in a smartphone so customers could tap their phones to pay, but use of the systems has been minimal. Despite claims that the phone-based systems are more secure, customers seem to prefer swiping a plastic card.
What may tip the scales in this case is the very specific scenario that Harris Teeter is testing. The payment app will allow customers to pay without getting out of their cars or even having to take a card out of their wallets, making it possible to have an online grocery order loaded by store staff and paid for without unbuckling a seat belt or passing anything through the car's window.
And if the system works, it could scale up well beyond the 212-store regional chain. Kroger (NYSA:KR), the largest U.S. grocery chain, is in the process of buying Harris Teeter. If customers like (and use) the mobile payments app, Kroger could eventually roll it out to many of its other grocery and hypermarket stores.
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