One of the many names buzzing in the payments space right now is MCX or Merchant Customer Exchange. MCX was originally announced in August 2012 – positioned as joint effort from major retailers including Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, Lowe’s, CVS, Shell, Sunoco and others to develop and launch their own mobile application. This ‘universal’ commerce app would give consumers an easier way to combine their digital wallet, instant coupons, gift cards and loyalty points all in one mobile location.
Over the past year, as MCX gears up for its future launch, even more ‘big box’ retailers have been added including Kohl’s, Circle K, Gap, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Kmart. In total, MCX supporters/investors now include a group of more than 30 major retailers, operating over 90,000 retail outlets and amassing $1 trillion in annual sales. Interestingly enough, the organization is now looking to expand its footprint beyond Tier 1 and 2 retailers, focused on attracting small and mid-sized merchants as well. Developing a ‘universal’ commerce application, MCX seems to be relying on the promise of consumer adoption across the major retail brands to drive use, value, and competitive advantage over other mobile wallet providers including Google and ISIS. The only retailer to leave MCX in the past year is Walgreen’s, who accelerated their mobile adoption by integrating their loyalty program with Apple’s Passbook. Walgreen’s now boasts over 72 million loyalty program members.
From a development perspective, MCX has announced partnerships with Gemalto, who will power the front-end and focus on user experience, and FIS, who was selected to power the back-end portion of the app including payment processing, routing and settlement. Unlike other mobile wallet developers who have relied on near-field communication (NFC) technology, it’s likely that MCX will focus on a barcode and cloud-based system – not NFC.
Like many in the mobile payments space, MCX is one to watch, but without a definitive launch date, we will have to simply ‘wait and see’.