For those of us who have been watching Passbook (now Wallet) for a long time (which basically boils down to the cross section between Apple fanatics and Customer Experience Consultants), the release of Apple Pay’s automated, NFC-powered loyalty program is an exciting next step in the path towards seamless user experience at checkout.
As soon as the news dropped I found myself scouring Apple’s developer documentation for more information. I had to wait, but in another session from this year’s WWDC I uncovered this:
Apple Pay uses the Value Added Services protocol to communicate loyalty information to the NFC terminal. The message key shown above sits in the pass.json file (the Passbook pass itself) and should uniquely identify a user in your loyalty programme. The optional encrytionPublicKey can be used for an added layer of security.
Unfortunately this approach will rely on terminal manufacturers to implement the new protocol.
Exploring the option of setting up a demo environment in our lab, I turned to Square, who have recently brought the beautiful NFC reader at the top of this post to market. Unfortunately their Square Connect API makes no mention of loyalty information, possibly because they have their own offerings in this space more suited to the smaller businesses that typically use their point of sale solutions. Regardless, I’ve reached out to Square for further information.
Newer Verifone terminals do support the protocol in question, but don’t look anywhere near as pretty, nor do Verifone seem anywhere near as approachable as Square.
Hopefully we’ll see rapid adoption of the protocol although this is not a traditionally fast moving space due to the slow rate of change in point of sale technology — even firmware upgrades are considered a risk for many retailers.
Until then, let’s continue to hope that customers remember to present their loyalty cards and watch valuable transaction data gurgle down the drain when they do not.
Footnote: Every transaction is a chance to learn about the customer. At Accenture Technology Labs we’ve been building the Customer Genome, hoping to capitalise on the wealth of data available to retailers and dramatically improve the customer experience through contextual cues.