Here’s a hypothetical decision: Would you pay $60 for an NFC-enabled iPhone case that enables you to pay via your smartphone—but only at ISIS partner merchants in Salt Lake City and Austin? Or, would you prefer to pay anywhere (at no additional cost) with old-fashioned cash or credit/debit cards? The choice seems absurdly clear—the vast majority (we would estimate 99%) of consumers will choose cash or card payment.
Still, despite a market opportunity that we believe is accurately summarized by the above choice, vendors with aspirations to cash in on mobile payment and NFC hype continue to introduce NFC retrofit solutions for smartphones lacking embedded NFC. Incipio is the latest entrant, having debuted its “Cashwrap” NFC-enabled iPhone 4/4S case earlier this week at CES. Incipio joins a market that seems crowded considering the nascent state of the NFC ecosystem in most regions. For example, companies such as DeviceFidelity, Flomio and Wireless Dynamics already offer (or are developing) similar accessories for both the iPhone and older Android devices. Frankly, given NFC’s weak support within enterprises and low awareness among consumers (not to mention that cash and cards are a free and highly effective alternative), we wonder: who is buying these products?
Among consumers, NFC contactless payment faces a daunting uphill battle to mainstream acceptance for at least two key reasons:
- Cash and cards’ familiarity with consumers across all demographics
- Security concerns, especially for solutions storing payment credentials on the device (as opposed to the cloud)
Keeping in mind the above factors, it is unlikely that the average consumer will spend additional money, time and effort to pay via NFC. If NFC-enabled contactless payment is to gain broader adoption, it must be absolutely frictionless to use (meaning no special cases, SIM or MicroSD card required) and offer incentives for ongoing use (for example, rewards or exclusive deals) to ensure consumers do not revert to cash or cards. Remember, cash and cards are accepted everywhere and cost the consumer nothing—in terms of money, time or effort—to use. We believe an NFC payment solution that cannot say the same has a highly challenging path to success.