CVS Finally Gives Mobile Payments Its Full Attention

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Two years after eschewing Apple Pay and NFC, CVS is integrating payments, marketing and prescription ordering in a single bar code-enabled mobile app, replacing a customer experience that currently relies heavily on time-consuming interactions with staff.

Called CVS Pay, it's part of the broader CVS Pharmacy mobile app and enables consumers to refill and manage multiple prescriptions, as well as receive alerts when prescriptions are ready. Consumers can also link their ExtraCare branded rewards card. The app additionally allows users to store major credit and debit card accounts, as well as the debit cards that accompany health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.

After an employee scans the bar code in the app, all verifications, such as name/birthdate, signature and PIN, take place in the app. Presently, consumers have to tell the pharmacy employee this information verbally.

CVS Pay is currently available in select stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and a nationwide rollout is expected later this year.

Strategically, CVS' strategy is similar to that of Starbucks and Walmart, which embed payment acceptance into a more full-featured app. However, the execution of this strategy counts for a lot, and Walmart has had a rocky beginning whereas Starbucks now accepts over one in five in-store payments via its app.

CVS stopped accepting NFC payments shortly after Apple Pay's launch, in part due to its commitment to a competing mobile wallet, CurrentC, which never launched. Among CVS's rivals, Rite Aid made the same move but eventually reversed course to officially support Apple Pay, while Walgreens embraced Apple Pay from the beginning.

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