NFC has been discussed for over a decade and is already present in millions of mobile devices, but the recent announcement from Apple that NFC is integrated into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus looks set to finally push this technology into mainstream use.
NFC – or near-field communications – enables information to exchange between two devices when they are held close together. It has already been integrated into Android smartphones from manufacturers such as Nokia and Samsung, which enjoy a higher market share than Apple’s iOS. However, as iPhone users tend to fall within a more affluent demographic, the adoption of NFC by Apple is likely to have a greater impact on retailers. Apple is also something of a trendsetter, and its seal of approval is vital to new technologies and innovations.
NFC technology is usually seen in the context of mobile payments, as it allows shoppers to pay using smartphones when NFC has been integrated into point-of-sale technology. However, the implications of NFC for retailers are far greater than mobile payments alone. NFC can also enable a more engaging, immersive shopping experience through the use of NFC tagging. So how will widespread adoption of NFC change the way we shop?
NFC is a leap forward for the in-store technology that many brands – such as MADE.COM – are now implementing to enhance and increase engagement with the omnichannel retail experience. By installing NFC tags that consumers can tap with their smartphones, retailers can empower customers to interact digitally with products in-store, viewing photos and videos as well as reading customer reviews. Consumers can also access additional services, such as digital wish lists, and share items online using social media.
For consumers, the major benefit of NFC tagging over other forms of interaction such as barcodes or QR codes is they need not register or download apps to use the in-store technology – something that many have been unwilling to do. NFC makes it far simpler for customers to use their own mobile devices. For retailers, one of the big benefits of NFC is the offline consumer intent data and insight to consumer behaviour it produces, which can be used for retargeting and personalised messaging.
Apple’s commitment to NFC signals an acceptance of this technology as the future of mobile payments, but it will also change the way we shop – creating a wholly new interactive experience for consumers.