The Merchant Customer Exchange has signed many of the biggest names in retail, but it has yet to release its mobile wallet and it asks merchants not to act hastily as they see other options clutter the market.
The development of mobile strategies is "a marathon, not a sprint," says Dodd Roberts, senior executive for MCX. As such, merchants who are pressured into doing something quickly will likely make a mistake, Roberts says.
"There are a lot of different segments in the payments ecosystem, and the problem is that the customer is not waiting for anything new related to payments," Roberts says.
MCX has so far devoted its attention to creating a consortium of large merchants to work on a common approach to mobile commerce, in addition to working with banks. It plans a software-based wallet that would operate within its merchants' separately branded apps.
Roberts and other mobile commerce experts spoke about the current state of retail technology as part of a keynote panel Oct. 29 at the Ramp conference in Chicago.
"Technology companies try to scare the merchants into accepting something, but there is so much collaboration going on with merchants, they should be able to control their payment environment," says Sean Kumar, founder and chief strategy officer of mobile wallet provider Impactorg.
The ultimate goal is to win customer loyalty, he says.
"Mobile is not a technology, it's a platform to achieve goals," says Kumar, whose Atlanta-based Impactorg provides the Handshake Mobile Wallet for 40,000 small merchants.
Impactorg's merchants accept transactions through an interchange-free Discover card in the mobile wallet. It provides a similar service to what MCX is developing for large merchants, Kumar says.
However, a merchant can't be afraid to make mistakes, or even fail often, when developing a mobile commerce strategy, says Al Blazek, chief financial officer of Dunham Sports. Merchants can endure a few short-term failures as they experiment, he says.
"There are a whole lot of things we can do in mobile that won't cost a lot of money," Blazek says. "If you are afraid to fail in mobile, you will move along very slowly."
Dunham Sports does not sell any products online, but rather uses its website and mobile apps to provide offers to customers or other services they have requested, Blazek says.
"You can't let customers get annoyed with your app, because it can really hurt your brand," Blazek warns.
The key for mobile commerce will be for providers to drive costs down for merchants and "delight customers in the process," says Joe Rogness, CEO of mobile pay and loyalty provider Jingit.
"If every merchant does his own thing, it will get really noisy out there," Rogness says.
Rogness says the industry has about 300 mobile wallets in various levels of development, but that number could be down to as low as 25 a year from now.
"And finally, at some point, we will be down to about eight that consumers and merchants have embraced," he adds.