Will Google Wallet Make NFC Mainstream?

NEW YORK – Mobile payments was a hot topic at the Mobile Shopping Fall forum on Oct. 18. Near Field Communications was on several speakers’ minds, and they wondered if the launch of Google Wallet will help make it mainstream.

NFC is nothing new – think Mobil’s Speedpass and MasterCard’s SpeedPass. The customer’s debit or credit card information is synced to a device (or directly on the card) that is swiped or tapped at a POS console. It’s offered as a customer convenience, and can speed up the path to purchase in the bricks-and-mortar environment.

But the lack of information passed down to both the merchant and the consumer may be hindering NFC’s growth. Also, 2D barcoding has become hip, and has allowed merchants to create mobile coupons and mobile gift cards than can be scanned at the register with a traditional barcode scanner.

“People aren’t excited about the opportunity to use their phone to make a transaction in the store,” said Larry Glenn, senior director, application development for the Saks Direct division of Saks Fifth Avenue. “We need to explain the benefits better.”

Security is not an issue though. Glenn says developers have done a great job ensuring mobile payments are more secure than traditional credit card usage.

Case in point: “If someone leaves their phone at the bar, they’re less concerned than if they leave their wallet at the bar,” Glenn said.

Though Glenn would like to see NFC become a popular choice for Saks customers, he thinks Google Wallet’s traction will be at places like the local deli, where a customer may make two or three transactions a week.

Kevin Ranford, vice president of online marketing, mobile and social media for 1-800-Flowers.com, wonders if shoppers are ready for modern technology such as NFC yet, and if customers who go to one if his company’s franchise stores would embrace the technology.

“There is a fear of the unknown,” Ranford said.

Karen Webster, president of Pymnts.com, said she’s not convinced that NFC will drive mobile payments. She said mobile carriers are driving NFC as the mobile payment preference of the future because they want to make themselves relevant.

But if the NFC-driven Google Wallet is going to make an impact, it’s going to be with merchants who issue their own store credit card, Webster said.

“There’s no bulk in cyberspace, people won’t have to worry about carrying around their store credit cards and it could bring a value-added experience,” Webster said. “Is that enough to give NFC traction, or would it just reach the tip? There’s always something new that comes along and takes momentum away.”

Here are two videos that demonstrate mobile payments in action. The top video is a Google Wallet demo, the bottom video is the Starbucks card mobile app…

Google Wallet

Starbucks Card Mobile App

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