Add McDonald’s to the list of companiesofficially piloting mobile payments. Bloomberg is reporting the company willsoon test a mobile payments app in Salt Lake City, UT and Austin,Texas (the same test cities as Isis, by the way). The currentMcDonald’s mobile application, which debuted in the United Statesin 2011, helps customers locate restaurants and provides nutritioninformation, but does not support payments.
McDonald’s has not released many details about the technology to beused in the pilot other than saying customers will be able to orderand pay from their handset, and then pick up their meal from aseparate line. The announcement sounds similar to the pilotMcDonald’s launched in Francelast year as part of a partnership with PayPal. It is not clear ifMcDonald’s is partnering with anyone for this upcominginitiative.
The company, however, has previously tested several mobile paymenttechnologies in different markets worldwide. In addition to thePayPal partnership, McDonald’s has also partnered with Blackberryto conduct an NFC pilot in Canada, and with Seamless to experimentwith QR codes in Sweden and Kuwait. The company has also investedin contactless technology in the United Kingdom.
Certainly, many U.S. companies are feeling pressured to invest inmobile payments. There is an enormous amount of hype around thetechnology’s potential to drive sales and support a superiorcustomer experience. For now though, potential is almost all we candiscuss. That is, except for a few applications like those fromStarbucks and LevelUp. The success of these two mobile paymentsapplication proves that mobile payments can work, at least in somescenarios. But no one has been able to replicate their success on alarge scale.
The assortment of trials and partnerships McDonald’s has employedis probably not too dissimilar from the experiences of othermerchants with global operations. Indeed, even purely domesticmerchants are trying out multiple technologies. While merchants’determination to come up with a compelling mobile payments productis encouraging for long-term consumer adoption, the scattershotinvestment approach limits the amount of enthusiasm that iswarranted by any individual announcement. Widespread use of mobiletechnology for payments could still be years away, although it cancertainly feel like it’s just around the corner.
Follow Michael Misasi on Twitter @mikemisasi.