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Brick-and-mortar stores are rapidly adding self-checkout options usually linked to proprietary mobile apps, giving merchants more control over how payment options are presented.

Industry forces have taken notice. To simplify and streamline digital checkout processes, Visa and Mastercard in April said they’re working on a unified “buy button" for mobile and online payments. Details are scarce and the networks haven't announced a timetable. Now several retail industry groups plus a couple of debit networks formed the Secure Payments Partnership to drive cross-industry participation in discussions shaping payments security, competition, authentication methods and innovation.

Here’s a fresh look at the fast-changing role of retail mobile apps and how consumers are using them.