Turn your smartphone into loyalty card with UAE firm’s NFC patent

Imagine waving your phone the next time you’re shopping at one of Dubai’s high-end shopping malls and landing a 20 per cent discount on that cool watch you always want to buy, or collecting a bunch of air miles buy just tapping your phone once you’re done doing grocery.

That’s going to happen by the end of this month.

UAE-based mobile application development company ViaFone Technologies says it has applied for the patent of its new mobile technology, and claims this will transform the way consumers collect and redeem loyalty points across the UAE.

Now we’ve all heard this before – something that will transform the world as we know it for ever, and have moved on with life without batting an eyelid. But this, the company promises, is different.

Wafi Mall is the launch customer for the new patent-pending technology, which will see consumers move away from the traditional plastic loyalty cards and instead use their mobile devices for all transactions. A launch of the programme for a European amusement park is planned for late 2013.

Members of the new Wafi Rewards Programme, scheduled to be launched later this month, will no longer be required to carry a traditional plastic loyalty card, which is prone to be forgotten or misplaced.

Instead, points will be collected and redeemed for rewards with a simple wave of a mobile phone or their rewards card towards a contact-less tablet.

The sceptic in us wants to ask: Will it work, for sure? “They will then receive an SMS confirming the transaction,’ says Souffiane Houti, Founder and CEO of ViaFone Technologies.

He adds that as the number of mobile devices equipped with NFC technology continues to rise rapidly across the UAE, forward thinking organisations such as Wafi are set to embrace this innovative technique to entice, engage and offer a more personalised, positive and more convenient loyalty experience in today’s high-paced society.

“The loyalty programme has proven its worth in attracting and retaining customers over the long term,” he said. “The goals for all parties – be it marketers or merchants – are straightforward: simplicity, engagement and Return on Investment. Loyalty programmes can also be difficult to maintain, require a high upfront cost, or are often seen as simply too much of a hassle for retailers. ViaFone’s new mobile technology changes this.”

So, no more plastic? You wish.

Plastic cards will still be available – for now – to Wafi Rewards members, but the ViaFone technology will increasingly bring the loyalty programme online in a more expedited and efficient manner. Using both NFC-enabled and non-NFC smart phones, members will be able to share information with friends via social media outlets, receive instant notifications of special offers , collect individualised discounts, all in addition, of course, to acquiring loyalty reward points and offers.

Houti adds that as customers use their mobile phones to interact with the loyalty programme, their profiles are constantly developed.

“We can analyse their interests, preferences, shopping habits and dislikes,” he said. “This advanced behavioural profiling enables any shopping mall and its retailers to cater more relevant offers to specific members of the loyalty programme in real time.

“Moreover, the user-friendly back office using powerful online tools will allow retailers to create, manage and track the new Rewards Programme’s effectiveness and success,” he adds.

While it might raise some concerns about confidentiality/privacy, it’s not much different to Google tracking our YouTube video views and suggesting what to see based on that. One can choose to watch something totally different than suggested, or go with the suggestions.

“We believe the technology delivers a win-win situation for both merchants and consumers. It is a highly efficient and secure way for merchants to extend their existing point of sale, building profiles of their customers and getting them to dig deeper into their behaviour and shopping habits. It is also more environmentally friendly eliminating – over time – the need for plastic cards. While for consumers, it makes shopping much more enjoyable and less of a hassle.”

Moira Billington, Head of Marketing at Wafi, said the mall was a pioneer of the development of the shopping mall concept in Dubai “In adopting ViaFone technology for Wafi Rewards, we are once again playing a revolutionary role in the UAE consumer’s shopping experience,” she said.


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