It was just this past May that MasterCard expanded its stake in the digital payments arena with its PayPass Wallet Services, and it’s already getting a bit of an overhaul. Today, MasterCard has announced that PayPass Wallet Services is graduating from its production trial with a new name — MasterPass — and a slightly broader approach to how it aims to improve users’ shopping experiences.
MasterPass will roll out to the masses in Canada and Australia before the end of March, with a U.S. launch slated for the spring and a U.K. launch to follow in the summer. To understand what MasterPass does, though, we need to rewind for a moment. MasterCard officially fired up PayPass Wallet Services last spring by allowing users to create free accounts and pay for purchases on certain partner websites using the identity, credit card, and shipping information they’ve stored in their PayPass “wallets.”
This will still be the case going forward, as will the ability to pay for products in-store with mobile devices. Don’t fret, PayPass users — nothing is going to happen to the extensive network of PayPass terminals, except perhaps that it’ll grow larger in the months to come.
The MasterPass rollout will see MasterCard placing more emphasis on linking up with merchants and retailers, especially those who may be feeling the pinch thanks to cheaper, more efficient online retailers. MasterCard’s plan? To allow those businesses to integrate MasterPass into the sorts of mobile-friendly, device-agnostic shopping experiences that they want to create, be they reliant on NFC transactions, QR codes, or purely online payments. According to MasterCard senior vice president Ed Olebe, more than a few retailers are looking for ways to enhance the traditional shopping experience with the sort of flexibility that digital modes of payment afford consumers.
“Take buying a shirt for example,” Olebe explained. “The typical experience is you swipe a card and check out. But why can’t you buy from the rack from your phone? If you like it and have to leave, why can’t you buy it from your phone and have the store ship it to your home?” It’s these sorts of “omnichannel” sales experiences that MasterCard created MasterPass to be a part of, and the company has already locked up support from players like Verifone, which today announced that MasterPass support would be baked into its mobile point of sale apps.
Still, that’s only one part of MasterCard’s scheme. The company will also be letting those merchants, retailers, and banks offer their own branded digital wallets by way of a MasterPass API. Consumers will ultimately be able to store any of their debit or credit cards in that branded wallet as they as would had they signed up through MasterCard directly. Perhaps the most notable addition to the mix is one that seems to have come about thanks to a savvy startup acquisition. MasterCard is also looking to add its own flair to the shopping experience in the form of value-added services like loyalty-driving rewards and real-time account alerts — a move no doubt aided by the company’s acquisition of Truaxis (formerly known as Billshrink) back in September 2012.
Name change aside, this whole thing seems like a largely incremental step forward for MasterCard. That’s not to say it’s not a necessary one, though — analysts expect the mobile payments market to grow dramatically by 2017, and with MasterPass’ launch MasterCard is angling for a stronger position in the space while it’s still relatively young. Meanwhile, other players in the mobile payments space are jockeying to solidify their respective positions, too. Rival Visa announced earlier this month that it would launch a partner program called Visa Ready in an attempt to get device manufacturers, developers, and service providers all on the same page when it comes to accepting Visa payments.