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CETW12: NFC isn't just about mobile payments

Near field communication is going to change how retailers market to consumers — just as soon as those consumers learn how it works, Steve Gurley, president of Pyrim Technologies, said yesterday at Customer Engagement Technology World in New York City.

Although most Americans consider NFC the same thing as mobile payments, that's a misconception, Gurley said in a panel called "How NFC/Digital Signage Could Change Shopping As We Know It." Conducting a mobile payment is just one of its functions. According to Gurley, the technology can be used in one of three ways:

  1. Peer-to-peer communication, which is seen in the Samsung commercials as people touch their phones together to exchange a song or other info.
  2. Secure card emulation, for instance a hotel keycard that you tap on the door as opposed to sliding it. An NFC chip is in the card.
  3. Read/write, a catch-all for exchanging info back and forth.

As more handset manufacturers release NFC-enabled phones, consumers are becoming more comfortable with the technology and will eventually be well versed in how it works. As this happens, retailers will be able to embed NFC chips into digital signs and marketing materials to interact with their customers, Mikhail Daminani, CEO of Blue Bite, a mobile marketing solutions provider, said during the panel.

"There is a huge opportunity to use NFC to engage customers," said Daminani, who used the example of an NFC-enabled poster. The customer merely has to tap his phone on it to get the value, which is usually something like a coupon or a piece of information. This is a much easier way for them to engage than to scan a QR code.

"It's the most intuitive technology we've seen in years," he said.

Gurley agreed, citing what he calls the "Linda Factor." His wife, Linda, won't use hard-to-use technologies, such as QR codes, because she won't take the time to download the app, wait for it to load and then scan it.

She may, however, tap her phone on a sign.

"Yes, the codes and NFC are both ways to engage, but Linda thinks they're the biggest waste of time, and if she won't use it, her friends probably won't use it either," he said.

Although the deployment of QR codes has skyrocketed in the last year, consumers aren't using them; usage is stuck at about 6.5 percent, Gurley said.

"Anything that makes you take out your phone, launch the app, wait for it, scan it — most people won't use it. If Linda could tap it, she might love that, but it will also depend on the type of info it will give."

Read more about NFC/Contactless technologies

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