NFC: A Real-World Retail Solution

It was supposed to be a breakthrough innovation for one of the world’s largest retailers — a smartphone app that enabled its shoppers to scan their purchases as they shopped, thereby avoiding long checkout lines and wasted time.

But after testing it at a large number of stores, the retailer pulled the plug. Why? According to the many published accounts, “customers couldn’t figure out how to work” it.

This is a vivid reminder of the challenges in altering shopper behavior in a world where consumers’ time is increasingly limited and the retail experience, both offline and online, is rapidly evolving. In an industry threatened by online competition and tight margins, there is a real need to make the in-store experience faster and more convenient and satisfying for shoppers. But if new technologies require too much of consumers’ effort or time, or if those consumers feel as though they must give up control of their phone to advertisers, investments in digital in-store interactivity are likely to fail.

And that’s the beauty of NFC. With its intuitive touch interface, NFC is the essence of simplicity, eliminating the need for consumer training and working easily for everyone on a global basis, regardless of language or culture.

Young woman shopping for pillows at large store

Yet, NFC’s ease of use is actually equaled by its power at point of sale. Everyone knows about NFC for mobile payments, but that’s only the beginning. With NFC, shoppers can quickly initiate access to store deals, rewards accounts, product information, and real-time store inventory. At home, consumers can touch an NFC-enabled product, such as a printer, to trigger replacement orders of the exact needed ink or toner cartridge from the retailer’s e-commerce site, all with just a touch.

For brands, NFC provides a new tool to build loyalty among consumers and to deliver personalized experiences that can boost the top and bottom lines. For retailers, NFC delivers an in-store customer experience that drives sales volume by providing the right offers and information in a way that’s virtually effortless for busy consumers.

And that’s not just our opinion. According to a survey conducted recently by Strategy Analytics, consumers prefer using NFC instead of QR codes, Bluetooth Beacons, and web browsers for every retail use case — because NFC is fast, efficient, and gives them greater control. You can learn more when the NFC Forum’s Retail SIG publishes its upcoming white paper, NFC Technology: How Changing Consumer Preferences Create New Opportunities for Retailers. Join us and Strategy Analytics for a Webinar Feb 12 at 1pm EST to hear all the details: http://nfc-forum.org/retail-study/. In the meantime, just remember: an innovation is only as good as people’s willingness to use it in the real world. On that score, NFC is a proven winner.

Matthew Bright is the Retail Working Group Chair of the NFC Forum and the head of technical marketing at the Thin Film Electronics NFC Innovation Center in San Jose, California.

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