NFC, or Near-Field Communication technology, has been somewhat of a buzzword in the mobile market in the past 18 months. It is clear that the technology, known predominantly for mobile payments, is an opinion-divider and no one is really sure of its future. Are marketers underestimating the potential of NFC marketing?
So what is NFC?
NFC uses short range wireless frequencies to securely transfer data between NFC-enabled devices by simply tapping them together (technically they only need to be in close proximity, but tapping is way cooler).
NFC is not a new technology, in fact, the first NFC-enabled phone was released back in 2006, but it’s never really found a role or purpose until recently. The financial industry has adopted the technology to roll out mobile payment systems, with Visa, Mastercard and American Express all signing up. But a lot of retailers have been reluctant to implement it. A study by M for Mobile suggests that things will change in 2015 when NFC handset penetration reaches 51 percent.
nfc in marketing
The jury is still out as to whether or not NFC mobile payments will take off, but what about NFC marketing?
It seems a lot of marketers are waiting for Apple to make NFC mainstream, we were all expecting the iPhone 5 to incorporate the technology but Apple decided against it. But does Apple still decide what the next trend is? 2012 saw its UK smartphone lead slashed as Samsung doubled its market share to 24 percent, just 4 percent behind Apple. Android also increased its lead over iOS, claiming nearly half of the market compared to Apple’s 28 percent. Many of the latest Android devices come equipped with NFC chips, and Samsung especially is pushing NFC.
NFC holds some great marketing opportunities for businesses with tech savvy customers, it allows users to simply tap their phone on a poster to trigger a voucher, website address or download. Movie companies could implement NFC on film posters which users tap to view the trailer. A coffee shop could have an NFC point at the counter that automatically checks customers in on Facebook whilst they’re waiting for their coffee. A beer brand could distribute NFC-encoded beer mats to pubs which punters can tap to take them to a promotional website or video. Or how an NFC poster outside a restaurant that puts its menu, phone number and address on users’ phones. You could even have an NFC business card that associates can just tap with their phone to get all of your contact details. The possibilities are vast.
NFC marketing is effective because it’s interactive. Instead of force-feeding consumers marketing messages, brands are enticing them to interact, communicate and engage. Users that see these NFC tags will want to tap their phone on it to see what happens, they don’t see it as an advert they see it as a personal discovery.
QR codes never really revolutionised the industry the way many people thought, and maybe marketers feel NFC is going down the same route. But QR codes were fiddly, confusing and temperamental. The process of interacting by tapping your phone on something is simple, quirky and fun.
Another avenue for NFC is loyalty schemes. We all hate rummaging through the dozens of loyalty cards in our wallet trying to find the appropriate one whilst the queue behind us gets longer and the sales clerk grows more impatient. Some companies have already rolled out this functionality including Orange, EAT and Starbucks. Besides the obvious incentive for customers, loyalty schemes are a great way for organisations to gather data on consumer behaviour.
So I guess now I need to sum up and provide some kind of definitive conclusion. Is NFC a great tool for marketers to interact and engage with consumers? Yes. Is it going to be a guaranteed, runaway success? No. The truth is that NFC faces some challenges; educating consumers, increasing NFC mobile penetration and getting all concerned parties on board. Only time will tell, but getting your ducks in a row now and being the first in your industry to launch an NFC marketing campaign could just be a risk worth taking.