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Saks Fifth Avenue exec: Consumers need to be educated on NFC

October 20, 2011

NEW YORK – A Saks Fifth Avenue executive at the Mobile Shopping Fall conference said that although NFC technology and the Google Wallet are the next big thing in mobile commerce, the space has a long way to go until consumers grab their handsets to pay rather than their wallet.

During the “Providing Privacy and Security to Consumers While Delivering a Rich Mobile Payments Experience,” session executives addressed the current state of mobile commerce. Additionally, the executives discussed their own mobile strategies.

“If you know you’re going to spend $800 on a pair of shoes, on the mobile side of things you browse for the product and research,” said Larry Glenn, senior director of application development at Saks Direct at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York.

“You’re think about [the purchase], whereas in the 1800Flowers world, you need the flowers now,” he said. “It’s more immediate.”

Point of sale
According to the executive, before we get to NFC and other in-store stuff, there is a lot of work that has to be done to make it easier and more secure.

“I don’t think that we communicated that to people,” Mr. Glenn said.

It is important to educate consumers on how to use the technology in-store and make payments, per Mr. Glenn.

Marketers should not just assume consumers know what NFC technology is.

Additionally, although the Google Wallet is gaining momentum, there are still a majority of consumers who are unaware that they can just tap their device at the point-of-sale to make a purchase.

“NFC providers have done a good job by partnering with people like Verifone,” Mr. Glenn said. “We haven’t explained to the customer why they want this.

“It doesn’t makes sense when you say to a customer you could put this sticker on the back of your phone and it’s NFC,” he said. “I would like to see it happening – I think it makes more sense for retailers and will make life easier.”

Mr. Glenn also said that it would be interesting to see how retailers further use mobile in their day-to-day initiatives.

“I think it would be fantastic to have QR codes on all the racks and when you scan them you get product information,” Mr. Glenn said.

Mobile flowers
According to Kevin Ranford, vice president of online marketing at mobile and social media at 1800Flowers, New York, said that it is important for companies to think about the user experience.

“We’re pretty excited where we are today from that standpoint,” Mr. Ranford said. “Mobile is still relatively new.

1800Flowers has been doing a lot in the mobile space, especially around the holidays.

In 2009, 1800Flowers launched a Mobile Gift Center right in time for Valentine’s Day as part of a continuing push into mobile commerce. The application provides iPhone and iPod touch users with access to a variety of the best and most popular 1800Flowers gift ideas and is ideal for mobile consumers to shop for last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts (see story).

Recently, the company revamped its mobile site to increase holiday conversions (see story).

Mr. Ranford also said that although NFC is becoming big, its more relevant in the retail category.

“It’s not a big opportunity for us right now, but I do think it’s big for, say, Saks Fifth Avenue,” Mr. Ranford said.

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Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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