VDC has always maintained that NFC-enabled contactless payment is a long-term application opportunity, despite that hype and evangelism in the media often suggests otherwise. We believe NFC’s real near-term potential lies in B2C use-cases that are less complex, more easily-enabled and, most importantly, do not require the cooperation of multiple stakeholders or the use of a Secure Element (SE). Specific examples include mobile marketing, information access/content delivery and targeted coupons/offers.
Based on a recently announced NFC pilot, Groupe Casino, a major French retailing chain, evidently agrees with our view. In October, the company plans to pilot an NFC-enabled personal shopping solution at one of its upscale Paris stores. The app, called mCasino, will be provided by the France-based NFC developer Think&Go, and will support numerous functions, but payment is noticeably absent among them. Essentially, the mCasino app is an NFC-enabled, smartphone-based Personal Shopping solution that allows shoppers to scan items (via electronic shelf labels) as they shop and to access product information. The app also enables customers to set various warnings (e.g., if a shopper scans a product with ingredients to which they are allergic, or that a customer is approaching a predetermined spending limit) and pushes discounts to shoppers’ mobile devices based on their personal preferences.
Groupe Casino has been candid about its decision not to integrate contactless payment into its NFC shopping app, citing unwillingness to “rent” space on the SIM card (or other SE type) from MNOs as the foremost barrier to including payment as part of its upcoming trial. The company also expressed concerns about entering a three-way relationship that would position it as the intermediary between MNOs and financial institutions. Considering all of Groupe Casino’s approximately 400 supermarkets/hypermarkets are equipped with NFC-enabled contactless transaction terminals, VDC finds the company’s decision to exclude NFC payment from the trial particularly noteworthy. Among enterprises evaluating NFC, lack of contactless infrastructure—and unwillingness to invest in the same-- is a more commonly cited barrier to adopting NFC-enabled contactless payment.
While future versions of the mCasino app could include payment functionality, at this time, the company has given no hint as to what strategic path(s) it might pursue in this regard. Certainly, as we have previously discussed in our blogs and other research, there are several strong NFC alternatives for enabling contactless payment—including 2D Barcode, QR code and the Cloud. Considering Group Casino’s objections to working with MNOs to enable NFC-based payment, we think any future integration of contactless payment with mCasino is highly likely to leverage one of these NFC competitors.