Let’s talk about something that wasn’t announced at yesterday’s Apple event: NFC.
NFC, or near field communication, is a technology that allows two devices in close proximity to “talk” to each other. Whether you wave your NFC-enabled smartphone over a credit card reader to pay at a store or the store sends a coupon to your phone as you walk by, NFC is going to change the way consumers interact with brands, friends, money, social networks and more.
Don’t think for a second that the NFC-less iPhone 5 means that the intersection of smartphones, mobile payments and marketing isn’t at a tipping point. It is. The questions to ask are: How will it affect PR? and When will it hit the mainstream?
NFC opens a world of possibilities for marketers: trade show booths can broadcast a message, retails stores can deliver coupons and event managers can push notices to attendees, to name a few. Let’s look at NFC payment, which will have a unique and unchartered impact on communications.
A customer receives a coupon in the mail. She keeps it in her purse until she makes her way to the store. At check-out, she pays using a credit card, asks the cashier to scan her loyalty card, then checks into the store on Foursquare on her way out.
A customer walks into the same store. She pays with her NFC-enabled phone by waving it over the reader. During the pass over the reader, the store accepts her payment, registers her purchase in the loyalty program, redeems a coupon, checks her into Foursquare and sends a message to her Facebook friends.
With the simple act of paying for goods, retailers will be able to better connect with and understand customers. The exchange of coupons and discounts will personalize the check-out experience. Similarly, the well of accessible consumer data runs deep. The unprecedented access to data will provide report-loving marketers with endless metrics and critical data to track sales, adjust products, fine-tune messaging, develop custom apps and more. Ultimately, it opens the door for marketers to engage customers in a new way, strengthening relationships and adding depth to the sales experience.
Despite Apple’s decision to hold back, NFC is coming. Last month, Juniper Research forecast mobile-payment transactions to increase by nearly fourfold over the next five years to more than $1.3 trillion. Big names, like Google, PayPal, MasterCard and Verizon, have already claimed real estate in the mobile payment/NFC market. It’s just a matter of time before that future scenario is reality.
Ah, technology. It’s so fun to keep up with you.