Kroger, University Pilot Mobile Payment Text Message-Based Service

CINCINNATI - The Kroger Co. here and the University of Cincinnati (UC) have teamed up to pilot test a mobile technology platform that links cell phones to bank accounts, enabling consumers to make payments to participating retailers by sending a text message.

Kroger is initially offering the service at two stores located in close proximity to the UC campus, and reportedly has plans to roll the program out in a Boulder, Colo.-area King Soopers store come February. If all goes as planned, the nation's top ranked grocer operator might consider a full-scale roll out of the technology at all of its 2,500 supermarkets.

The platform, called Mocapay, is the brainchild of an upstart Denver, Colo.-based technology firm of the same name. Besides Kroger, some 30 other retailers and restaurants are already are wired with the technology.

A Kroger spokesperson did not respond to requests for additional information. The Cincinnati Business Courier quoted Meghan Glynn, Kroger's media relations director, as saying: "We think some of our customers will appreciate this new technology. Teaming with UC provides a great way to introduce it."

Customer convenience is at the heart of Mocapay's appeal with users, who first need to register on the latter's Web site to set up the money transfer process from a bank account into a Mocapay account, said the partners. To make a payment, customers send a text to Mocapay, which responds with a code. Retailers input the code into the cash register, giving permission to draw funds from the Mocapay account.

The service can provide instant targeted marketing. "Kroger may offer ham sandwiches half off to Mocapay users and send a text to those that visit the store," Lance Gentry, Mocapay's c.m.o. was quoted as saying. "That's really powerful because they know who that customer is because he's chosen to pay using Mocapay."

Gentry said his company hopes to launch the service nationally mid-2008, with some 10 or 12 local retailers on board by year's end. "Our goal is a national launch into all [Kroger] stores, 40,000 lanes, and unprecedented success," Gentry said.
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