By Danika Thomson

Let’s go back to 2011. Topics relating to NFC (Near Field Communication) and Smartphone Technologies captivated the media. Articles speculated that such was the simplicity and convenience of information sharing applications, it was inevitable that the tradition of sharing of business cards would soon become obsolete.

So how do they work? Put simply, applications such as Bump Technologies, Cardcloud, Cardflick and TwtBusCard, allow two smartphone users to physically bump their phones together to transfer contact information, photos, and files to each other over the internet.

Sounds great yes?! Yet 2 years later Business Cards still remain a growth market.

What can we put this down to?

Let’s take Japan as a case study. In Japanese business etiquette, business cards meishi (名刺?) are a ‘must have’ and it is recommended that you carry at least 150 for a 1 week business trip to Japan. It is good etiquette to carry double-sided Japanese business cards printed with Japanese (katakana) as well as English. If your original business card is not English, it is preferable to use double-sided English and Japanese business cards when doing business in Japan.

So, ‘great!’, then you may think. Smartphone technologies are perfect for a trip to Japan! Instead of purchasing 200 newly printed bi-lingual cards, we’ll be saving on luggage space, save some trees, in fact everyone’s a winner! However, linguistic considerations aside, the ritualistic nature of the exchange of business cards in Japan is such, that it seems unfeasible that Japanese businessmen would opt for a Smartphone exchange of information over the business card.

The exchange of business cards is an essential part of Japanese business etiquette and after a person has introduced him/herself and bowed, the business card ceremony begins. Offering the card with the Japanese side facing upwards toward the recipient with both hands, will demonstrate greater respect. The Japanese expect you to take the time to carefully read and memorise all pertinent information as ‘business cards are considered an ‘extension of the individual – not just a tool to help you find somebody after you have met them.’ (Venture Japan)

To an outsider, the Meishi ritual may seem a mere formality, however if we look closer at Japanese working culture we can understand the sense of pride and belonging attached to Japanese Business cards.

Business CardIn Japan the notion of lifetime employment is still widely accepted with graduates typically staying with the same company until retirement. During their time at the firm the graduates will network between departments forging very strong bonds through these long term relationships. It is frowned upon to seek other employment outside your company and job seekers over 30 are often treated with suspicion. With this is in mind, the absence of professional networking sites such as Linkedin is no surprise, and a blow for applications such as LinkedIn’s Cardmunch in trying to market their services in Japan.

So to the future. How do NFC technologies get past cultural boundaries such as these? Can they really be adapted so that the convenience and efficiency of Smartphone technology works in synergy with old and trusted traditions?

Looks like they can! Business cards are here to stay but this time with a twist!

The new NFC Business Card by companies such as Moo.com. The business card itself has a tag embedded inside containing customizable information.  This information can be transferred to a smart phone when the business card is tapped on it. Whether you want to highlight a product or introduce a new lead to your company’s work, the NFC business card links directly to your perfectly translated and transcreated website communicating your accomplishments and projects! Huzzar!

What do you think of NFC technologies? Do you have experience of doing business in Japan?

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