Future of Shopping with NFC

Through the last decade , there is a cosmic explosion of innovation that is happening in various areas especially with telecom and smartphones.Consumers are bombarded with new technologies that make our lives easier and better . Inspite of this ,our shopping experiences have more or less been the same . There is hardly any significant change in our shopping behavior for quite some time  .

Even though online shopping is slowly emerging , still many of us would love to feel the product before buying it . Shopping is not just about getting the best price , it is also about the personal experience that connects  you with the product emotionally .User engagement is very low and shopping experience is still disconnected and the best of both online and offline shopping is not available as a whole.

Shopping is widely considered a stress buster , but it can be hectic and frustrating if one cannot buy what they wanted . Let us concentrate on the primary issues that one may encounter while do a shopping and see how emerging technologies can be applied it each scenarios .Some suggestions may be futuristic , it may take time for mass spread adoption . But a  little understanding and awareness of how future technologies can enhance our  360 degree shopping experiences will go a long way in embracing them as soon as they arrive at the market place.

Top 3 Problems for a  Shopper

Scenario :1 – Finding/Buying a that dress you loved 

It happens to a lot of people :  Blame it on whatever it is , the day when you are in no mood to shop  but go with your  friend as his/her  fashion consultant to the  shop , you get to love the clothing line up that particular day.Believe me , try going to the shop very next day to buy it and for reasons that cannot be explained ,  that  one dress you loved would no longer be available .

Worse is the fact that you cannot even find out if there will be any new stocks arriving anytime soon because you cannot describe what you saw – the pattern, the color , the fabric . It was so unique, refreshing  but it is no more .

Scenario :2 – An Indoor Toy Helicopter that flies for 10 mins after recharging for 2 hrs

Some products do not give enough information and one cannot get a chance to have a demo also because the batteries unavailable or opening the seal would  void the warranty etc .As a customer, you are really clueless on how the product would perform to it’s tall claim  – for eg. toys or new gadgets which people do not have an idea.  In many cases , customer avoid buying such products. And in some  cases , they return the product after few days not being convinced of the product .

Scenario :3 – Carrying loyalty cards in your wallet 24×7

You have a loyalty  card with the shopper but not sure how many points are needed so that you can redeem your  free gift. You do not want to interrupt your shopping ,  go online and check it out  .It may sound silly to check with the sales guy to see how many points are available. So you are not encouraged to shop for extras.

Sometimes  the shopper gave you a loyalty card when you shopped last time but you threw them out since your wallet is getting heavier with more and more loyalty cards. So even though you have a loyalty card , it is of no use .

Top 3 Problems to a Business :

Scenario 1: Spends on Marketing and Promotional  offers 

Business spend a lot of money in newspaper and media running offers and discounts , time and resource on registering customers for loyalty cards ,newsletters to prospective customers .But are they targeting the customer through the right medium that he is regularly engaged with ?

Business provide customer with a loyalty card . So does a lot of other shops , they too provide similar loyalty cards and the customer ends up with around 10 or more similar cards that they entirely dump the cards from their wallet .So a customer who  visit next time,cannot avail discount because they do not know the card details.Understanding customers’ pain point will go a long way in providing customer delight.

Scenario 2: Engaging  customers with smaller work force

As a customer waiting to be attended by a sales guy , you would be surprised on the time and effort that  is spent when a customer queries for various information with the sales guy .Customers  check with the guy multiple times if there is a different size or color available and this sales guy need to co-ordinate with the warehouse guy and let them know each time for every model on the status . And some times , the required details are not available on the product stickers and hence more time spent making customers aware of the product.

Scenario 3 : Long payment queue

Customers wait for a long time to for the  billing and final payment to be completed . And once the final bill is done , few more minutes needed for  customer to redeem gift vouchers or gift cards etc .

Hail NFC , the new Rockstar !  

The fundamental objective for shops today is to make customers spend little time yet shop what ever they wanted . This does more good to the business as well. Less time spent in the shop means more customers can be served at the same time .

That is where NFC – Near Field Communication comes into picture. NFC is the technology where in a chip is made available in your smart phones and this chip can transfer/recieve small amount of data between your mobile and other nfc chip  reader  thereby sharing information instantly .

NFC is available in latest high end phones like Galaxy Nexus , Galaxy S3. Even you can share information between mobile easily . Bluetooth is currently available but the process is tedious of finding devices and then sending the info is bit time consuming .But with NFC enabled phones , it will be easy to transfer data by just placing two NFC enabled devices in close proximity to each other.

Using NFC in Shopping

So let us see how this technology can help us to solve problems :

Finding more abt product / Product  Information/Demo

To find details about a product on the shelf /price or even a short demo . Just scan your NFC enabled mobile phone at the NFC tag/sticker placed near the product . All product details could be viewed through the information sent by NFC chip – it can either be direct info or browser URL that contains all the product information .

The below demo will give a neat idea on how it can be used it retail stores .

What this technology can do is make it easier to view a product details . You can even save these details , share it with friends or make a wish list for future purchases. So next time  when you visit the shop , you can show your book marked products so that the salesman can fetch you the product or even order in case if interested .

Product details  can even be linked with a small  demo video that can be played from youtube on the user’s mobile there by giving a very clear idea on how the product functions.In the video show above , it is extended to show the ingredients of a product so that you can avoid buying allergic products by mistake. And when the product inventory is linked to this directly , you do not need  a salesman to confirm if the next size is in stock .

So this is a win-win situation for both the customer and business as well. Customers need not wait for sales guy to attend them and explain them product information whereas business can also have purchases being made quickly without the sales guy intervention.

Mobile Payments /Loyalty cards 

NFC gives an easier way of managing mobile payments . Every major OS be it the Android or iOs or Windows have enabled or will eventually enable payment transactions through mobile. So contact-less payment will go a long way in removing the hassles of swiping a credit card .

Also Loyalty cards can also be made available in the form of mobile payment so that users can always have these cards , check their rewards point any time and can redeem it during payment as well .

Google Wallet is the payment system being offered by Google . Short video on how it works here !

And this demo on how coupons/discounts can be used along with NFC in a restaurant takes the whole dining experience to a new level  .

This family gets a coupon deal from Groupon to a restaurant . Once they visit the restaurant ,  shares contact info via NFC to the  salesman who then  provides restaurant menu app url. They have a look at the menu and  they even place the order there using mobile payment there  by making the whole dining transaction through NFC .

And one more video on how Google Wallet can change our lives digitally

Product Promotions/Customer Engagement

At the point of sale , all the business can do is to keep a Facebook Like NFC button and encourage customers to like their business . And tada , you now get a new contact to whom you can push your product promotions and offers easily .

Just have a look at the NFC enabled posters that are available and how future promotions/ticketing etc can be handled easily .

Business can use this posters as well to provide information about events , concert info , deals/offers that customer can redeem easily .

NFC outside of Shopping 

NFC is not only limited to shopping . It can be used in our day to day life as well which makes it a compelling feature to have in smartphone . How nice it would be to share contact info or map location . That is really cool right ?

Sharing content between NFC enabled  mobiles 

NFC can also be used to share contacts , video and music url , map location etc .

NFC Tags 

Another interesting aspect is that we can define our own custom NFC tags that can help in doing certain things . Say for example – we can create a new NFC tag that will do the following once we are in office : switch mobile to silent , turn wi fi off , enable mobile data etc.  All you have do is to create this custom NFC tag , place it at your desk . So once you reach your desk and swipe over the tag to enable all these operations at  a single shot.Local business can use  such smart nfc tags  to provide free wi fi to customers at the swipe of their mobile on the NFC tag.

This small one minute from Sony Xperia about smart nfc tags clearly explains the possibilities . Though this may look primitive , the opportunities are endless .

Sharon Vaknin from CNET provides some interesting ideas on how NFC tags can be used in our day to day life. Check it out .

Organizing conferences , events and real time sharing

NFC can be used in conferences , organizing events which in all the delegates can be provided with NFC tag enabled passes so that they can share contact with business easily , share instantly what ever they like at the event . Renault infact has implemented NFC through one such auto event where by users  can like and even share whatever car they like instantly on facebook .

Limitations :

NFC is currently in the nascent stage . Though Google Wallet uses NFC , it has not caught up mainstream yet . Also there are only  few mobiles that are currently offering NFC . But it’s slowly catching up.

Another issue with regards to following up standards. As of now , Nokia has its own standard for NFC and Android Beam , which has its own implementation of NFC makes it impossible to share information between different OS/ handsets . But we hope this issue should be sorted out soon because there is major push for NFC and mobile payments by all leading banks and service providers .

So what’s in future :

NFC does not limit itself to just shopping but to redefine the way how we live and interact with our environment .

This info graphic clearly explains the 6 ways through which NFC can revolutionize digital era.

So in short , shopping experience can be taken to a whole new level with near field communication . NFC is a technology that is well established in Japan and Korea.All the transactions at the railway stations and other public places use NFC to save a lot of time. So essentially , NFC  will come to our devices -it may be delayed but cannot be avoided . Also application  developers will use this technology to make more killer apps in future there by making this a compelling shopping experience .

So what you do you think about this cool technology ? How do you think will our shopping experience be enhanced  in the future ? Share your thoughts here .

Get ready to embrace NFC  !


8 thoughts on “Future of Shopping with NFC

  1. Marrion says:

    Good stuff. NFC is definitely gonna bridge the gap btwn online shopping and in-store shopping in the future. And Apple has already started filing more than its fair share of NFC-related patents 🙂

    • dinakaranonline says:

      While NFC is interesting , the need for a NFC chip in your mobile phone is the limiting factor for growth. Barclay Bank in UK provides customers with NFC stickers that can be stuck in the back of your phone for payments 🙂

      And there are other payment vendors like Square which is gaining prominence these days . This app does not need NFC and StarBucks have partnered with it.

      And yes you are right . Unless Apple brings NFC, the whole ecosystem will not take off and will just remain as a hype.

      After a week of writing this blog post, there are more signs that NFC is getting hammered by many such innovative companies that has set up mobile payments with low and minimal infrastructure cost 🙂

      • Marrion says:

        More than in retail shops, putting NFC into use in banking and payment will be a boon. Hopefully we will be able to make payments within seconds when this is in place. I am overwhelmed about this!
        However there’s another big question – what about security? Anyone who is in posession of my device will be authorized for payments? Sounds scary isn’t it?

      • dinakaranonline says:

        NFC in payment is being trailed out in various places now. Burger King is collaborating I suppose. Yes , NFC stickers could pose a problem if stolen . But i guess you may need to enter some password to confirm the transaction I suppose.

        Generally with NFC built in devices , NFC range is only 4 inch and you may need to actually make a physical contact with other devices to transfer data.

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