NFC payments need marketing campaign

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The concept of NFC appears to be struggling to catch on in the UK, but coherent publicity campaigns are the answer to raise consumer awareness

Despite massive funding and sporadic marketing campaigns, the concept of using NFC to pay for things on your mobile is struggling in the UK, with some analysts doubting whether consumers want the technology at all.

The idea of telling a security-conscious public they could use their mobiles to pay for things was always going to be a tough sell. Contactless cards seem to be rarely used by the public and shop assistants seem equally perplexed as to what the wavy-line logo on a debit or credit card actually means.

If banks are struggling to get the public to use contactless cards, what chance is there for a mobile operator?

Prior to Samsung’s deal with MasterCard that the Samsung Galaxy S III would be promoted under the Quick Tap banner, it seems even Orange (which first attempted to utilise NFC) seemed to be losing faith.

Up to last week, the number of NFC-supported handsets marketed as supporting the service still stood at an underwhelming two – the Samsung Tocco Lite (released in 2009) and the Samsung Galaxy Wave (released in 2011).

The Orange NFC service struggled as it was only promoted on phones still using the Samsung TouchWiz operating system in 2012.

The renewal of the MasterCard partnership, however, could herald a new beginning for the stuttering service – it remains to be seen if the S III will help revive it.

If NFC is to succeed, there needs to be a sustained marketing campaign outlining the benefits to businesses and consumers. Otherwise networks may struggle to convince customers of its worth.

The main benefit of NFC to business seems to be tracking what people buy to offer ‘relevant deals’. While some will see this as an advantage, many consumers will be turned off completely by the idea of being ‘tracked’ in this way.

The other advantage of NFC is speed of transaction. While NFC it is faster than chip-and-PIN, it’s exactly the same methodology as using a contactless debit card. Small businesses have the cost of installing the payment terminals and training staff.

All of this takes effort. But the networks, finance providers and everyone must produce a coherent publicity campaign together. If they don’t, perhaps it’s time for the networks to ‘tap out’ and leave contactless payment to the banks.

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