Auchan, a leading French supermarket chain, announced plans to launch a cross-merchant m.wallet app called Flash ‘n’ Pay (FNP). The FNP app will be very similar to the one currently in development at the Merchant-Customer Exchange (MCX), which we discussed in a previous post. Like MCX, the FNP app can be used with all credit/debit card brands, supports loyalty cards and is MNO and issuing-bank agnostic. FNP also shares the same enabling technology as MCX—the app will be barcode-based, not NFC.
Whereas France is among the countries leading European NFC adoption, one might understandably assume that a retailer-led m.wallet app designed for that market would be NFC-based, not barcode. However, NFC faces many of the same fundamental challenges to mass adoption in France that it does in most other countries:
- NFC-based apps cannot be used by many current smartphone users—barcode is accessible to virtually all
- NFC-based payment requires cooperation across multiple stakeholders—barcode does not
- Barcode-based apps are easier and less costly to support—and many B2C merchants already have the requisite 2D imagers installed at the POS
Certainly, NFC adoption in France is stronger relative to most other national markets, thanks in large part to the French government’s recent commitment to fund contactless transportation infrastructure in approximately 15 cities. However, NFC’s long-term potential as a B2C commerce enabler in France—and in most countries, save for a select few in Asia-Pacific—remains highly uncertain.
We view Auchan’s selection of barcode for its m.wallet as a particularly noteworthy development by virtue of its regional context. If an NFC m.wallet is not viable for a French retailer, in which countries is it? From our perspective, the FNP announcement demonstrates how far NFC has yet to progress before it attains mainstream status, even in the countries/regions where adoption is relatively strong today.