NFC – Bring It On

26 May, 2011 was the day Google launched Google Wallet. I believe we will look back on this date as the beginning of a new era of consumer engagement. In a nutshell, Google Wallet is based on Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, and allows consumers to use their mobile phones as wallets. This wallet ‘includes’ your payment card and Google Offers – deals and coupons that will be available to you at the point-of-sale. This is the beginning of the end of that fat wallet in your pocket, as well as all those plastic payment, loyalty and ID cards we have become used to carrying around.

But that is not just the beginning of the end of the physical wallet. We all – consumers, merchants, consumer product companies and service providers – now have a new way to interact with the world around us, including people, products, places, promotions and payment systems.

NFC-based mobile phones are also the beginning of an end of business cards, insurance cards and even our driver’s ID cards. Imagine a world where you will be able to tap your mobile phone to exchange business cards, and where your insurance cards and driver’s ID card will be delivered ‘into’ your mobile phone. You will tap your mobile phone not just for payments, but also to check-in to a hotel, airplane or even a doctor’s surgery. Merchants and service providers will ask you to tap your mobile phone at check-out counters to make payments and earn loyalty points.

Product labels

Moreover, NFC-based mobile phones represent the beginning of the end of paper product labels we see today. As NFC tags inevitably become affordable, we will start seeing ‘smart’ product labels that will be able to interact with NFC-based mobile phones. Consumer product companies will have a way to interact with consumers using their products, in real time. Beyond just providing product information, consumer product companies will have a way to offer discounts, promotions, authenticate their products and build long-lasting relationships with consumers.

Additionally, these companies will be able to collect rich metadata about their business – their products, their placements, the effectiveness of their advertisements and the interest consumers have in their products, packaging and brand. And all of this will be possible without any involvement of the supply chain that sits between them and their customers.

Mobile phones with location tracking capabilities have already begun a new era of consumer check-ins, as well as a whole new way of tracking loyalty and presence and offering rewards. NFC will make location check-ins easier, and perhaps bring them into the mainstream.

With NFC, location check-ins will involve the tap of a mobile phone on movie poster in a cinema hall, an event poster in a stadium or even a menu card in a restaurant. NFC-enabled smart posters will replace the posters we currently see in malls, airports, cinema halls inside stores, and they will offer a novel way for merchants and consumer product companies to promote their offerings. The scan of an NFC-based smart poster proves consumers’ intent, better probability of converting into a purchase, and the success of the promotional campaign.

Consumer engagement
The onset of the age of online consumer engagement led to the creation of a whole new world – new businesses, new business models, new processes, new services and new technologies. The start of this new era of NFC will lead to the same. Consumers, merchants, consumer product companies and service providers adopted the online model only when they found it easy, efficient and secure, and they will demand the same from NFC.

Vivek Khandelwal is VP of marketing & business development at Verayo