"Our goal is to create the m-payment standard within the retail sector, independent of any telephone operators and banks," says the head of Flash'n Pay, a new mobile wallet brand that has been created by one of the country's largest grocery retailers and is set to go head to head with the French carriers' NFC-based Cityzi service.
"Independent of all telephone operators and banks, the Flash'n Pay solution is the response to the blockage affecting the roll-out of mobile payment in France," says Auchan. "Flash'n Pay can be used by all consumers, whatever may be their purchasing channel, telephone operator or bank, and incorporates all their payment and loyalty cards issued by all retail chains.
"Welcomed and supported by retailers, it is the solution that will enable the rapid roll-out of mobile payment in France. Flash'n Pay SAS opens its capital to all the players of the retail sector who wish to take part in its roll-out. The governance of Flash'n Pay SAS will be ensured uniquely by retailers."
"Apart from simple payment, Flash'n Pay incorporates all the dimensions of shopping, before, during and after the act of purchasing," Auchan adds. "Payment, loyalty, [digital receipts and purchasing history], reduction coupons, and soon shopping list, wish list, advice on products, shopping tips, social shopping, budget management, etc. Flash'n Pay enables customers to improve their purchasing power by optimising the use of their loyalty programmes and reductions, to access personalised shopping tips and to discover a new shopping experience."
Flash'n Pay will be rolled out across Auchan's 127 stores in France, as well as outlets in Luxembourg and Portugal, in April 2013.
"Our goal is to create the m-payment standard within the retail sector, independent of any telephone operators and banks," Benedict Liagre, director of innovation and organisation at Oney Banque Accord and CEO of Flash'n Pay SAS, has told French trade publication L'Usine Nouvelle.
"We see ourselves as a complete alternative to what is proposed today, starting with NFC solutions," Liagre explained. "Retailers want to remain in control of their customer data. This need for independence vis-à-vis banks and mobile operators is a reality and that is why we have developed Flash'n Pay."
To use Flash'n Pay, customers download an app to their smartphone and then link their payment and loyalty cards to their account. At checkout, a QR code is presented to the customer by the merchant's terminal. The customer then captures an image of the QR code with their phone's camera and enters a PIN to complete payment. A video shows Flash'n Pay in use in a grocery environment and sets out clearly Auchan's ambitions for the new brand:
Flash'n Pay also works for ecommerce and mcommerce transactions. To make a purchase from an online store, for instance, customers use their phone to snap an image of a 2D barcode that is generated at checkout and then enter their PIN on their handset. A second video shows this process in action, as well as in a food service environment and to make a purchase from a printed catalogue:
Flash'n Pay is currently on trial at Auchan's store in Fâches-Thumesnil and, Liagre has told L'Usine Nouvelle, "we are in discussions with major retail players in France and some general specialty retailers, particularly in the DIY sector."
In the US, a similar move has already been made by Wal-Mart, Target, 7-Eleven, Best Buy and other major retailers. In August 2012 they jointly formed Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a new mobile payments and promotions company "dedicated to offering consumers a versatile mobile commerce experience that will combine the convenience of paying at the register with customizable offers." MCX is yet to reveal what technology it will use at the point of sale.