LevelUp arms merchants with white label payment apps

In the mobile payment race, driving people to transact through one app might not be enough. LevelUp is banking that merchants are interested in having their own branded apps that can still take advantage of LevelUp’s payment and loyalty infrastructure. So it’s creating a white label tool for bigger businesses to integrate LevelUp into their own apps.

Businesses will be able to integrate a new LevelUp SDK in coming months into their existing apps. Or they’ll be able to turn to LevelUp, which can build them a custom app powered by LevelUp in 8-12 weeks.

LevelUp has been signing up businesses including Sweetgreen, a small chain of restaurants in the Washington DC area. Sweetgreen had been looking to join LevelUp’s payment network but wanted to have its own app for users to download.

LevelUpLevelUp’s chief ninja Seth Prietbatsch said white labeling LevelUp lets businesses with a strong brand or good relationship with their customers strengthen that through their own app instead of diverting them to the LevelUp app. Businesses can still take payments from customers who want to use the existing LevelUp app.

If LevelUp builds a merchant app from scratch, it can cost $40,000 to $50,000. But Priebatsch said he believes the bigger opportunity is in letting businesses connect to LevelUp through its SDK and APIs.

The move helps LevelUp strengthen its hand against its various mobile payment competitors. Right now, most rivals expect consumers will pay with one app. But for merchants that want to own more of the customer experience, those tools don’t always work well. Restaurant mobile payment system TabbedOut also introduced its own SDK earlier this month for restaurant chains.

Priebatsch said LevelUp is in a good position to offer a white label app because it has built its own payment infrastructure and doesn’t have to rely on anyone else to implement it. And its QR-code based system, with rotating security tokens that expire quickly, is safe and easy for merchants to use in their own apps. A white label tool also helps introduce more merchants to its payment model, in which it charges nothing for interchange fees and only makes money from running marketing campaigns.

A white label tool will only appeal to merchants with enough money or locations for their own app. But it does address some concerns of businesses, who don’t want to hand over their customer experience to someone else. That’s part of the motivation for big retailers like Walmart (s wmt), Target (s tgt) and others who have banded together to launch their own payment system called MCX. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more white label payment apps hit the market as mobile payment players try to cater more to retailers and merchants.