By Koichi Tagawa, January 22, 2014

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on retail payments at the National Retail Federation’s 2014 Annual Convention & EXPO in New York. It was a lively discussion that brought into focus the challenges of perception versus reality when it comes to mobile payments and related technologies.

It was a welcome opportunity to highlight the progress being made around the world and broaden retailers’ understanding of what NFC can do for them beyond the payment transaction.

The fact is that payment is not just payment — it’s really commerce. The payment transaction is only one dimension of a bigger retail picture that includes: point-of-sale information, coupons, in-store promotions, customer loyalty programs, and more. I pointed out that NFC is the only interface, based on standards, that has global compatibility with all key retail media, including coupons, loyalty cards, and credit and debit cards. By gathering all of these capabilities within a person’s phone (something we all carry with us everywhere), NFC puts greater convenience, information, and money-saving opportunities within a shopper’s reach.  As 2015 approaches, and many retailers upgrade to EMV POS terminals (which support NFC), those advantages will become more obvious.

I saw a perfect example of NFC’s broader retail impact at the EXPO. A company from France was showcasing its electronic shelf labeling solution, which includes an embedded NFC tag. It enables consumers to synch their shopping lists with coupons and store promotions, get detailed product information at the store shelf, and more. None of those benefits has anything to do with the payment transaction itself — but for consumers, retailers, and packaged goods manufacturers, they are significant. And only NFC can make it happen.