Swedish bank Swedbank will close down Bart, its proprietary mobile payment program.

The program will shut down over the next three months, though the bank did not release a specific timetable. Bart has about 20,000 registered users, which is lower than the expected uptake, the bank says, though it did not disclose a specific adoption goal.

"Low use is one of the reasons we're discontinuing the service," says Anna Sundblad, a Swedbank spokesperson, who referred additional questions to the bank's e-commerce team. A rep for that team would not field questions on Jan. 21.  

The Bart service was launched in June 2013, and uses cameras mounted next to the cash register to scan QR codes displayed on the shopper's mobile device. The program's clients include Axfood, a regional grocery store chain.

Sundblad did not say if the Stockholm-based Swedbank, which has about $200 billion in assets, plans to pursue mobile payments in the future.

"Of all markets, Sweden is particularly competitive when it comes to mobile payments," says Zil Bareisis, a senior analyst for Celent.

A number of mobile payments ventures have launched in recent years in that country, including Swish, PayAir, WyWallet and Seamless.

Mobile payment providers are challenged to convince merchants and consumers that mobile phones are a better alternative to the long-standing methods they are already using to make payments.

"All mobile payment solutions, irrespective of geography, need to deliver a strong value proposition to customers, especially when those customers already have good alternatives," Bareisis says. "Various mobile payment players, including banks and mobile operators, which have been among the earlier ventures to launch their solution, are reevaluating their options. For example, O2, a large mobile operator in the U.K., has recently decided to shut down its O2 Wallet."

On the flip side, some mobile payment providers report success through an easy user experience. Karna, which enables email addresses to be used to execute mobile payments with few registration steps for consumers, has registered 13 million consumers and 18,000 merchants.

"The success of players such as Karna…demonstrates that is it possible to stand out in the crowd with a distinctive value proposition," Bareisis says.


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