It’s no secret that technology influences a wide range of markets and industries – and often for the better. Take the advertising industry for example; it was all about newspapers and billboards prior to the invention of the television, which was soon eclipsed by the scale of advertising via the internet. How about the aerospace industry? It’s hard to believe that there was once a time (not too long ago mind you) that planes were entirely mechanical (i.e. no complex computing systems controlling this and that), and now it seems, digital marketing has taken a tentative step towards the adoption of new physical technologies.
NFC (near field communication) may sound like a brand new concept to many people, however it’s actually been around for a while. Those contact-less credit cards in your pocket? They work on NFC based technology.
For those who’d like a bit of a science-y overview to fill in the gaps, NFC devices operate on a radio frequency (13.56 MHz) and provide a method to securely transfer data from one device to another. So how and why are digital marketers integrating them into their campaigns?
Who is utilizing NFC technology?
With NFC enabled smartphones on the rise and contact-less payments happening left right and center, companies are using NFC in so many different ways and the true diverse nature of this technology is just being realized, so let’s take a look at some big name brands and how they’re using it:
These guys are usually ahead of the game every time when it comes to innovating the industry. However, they were a bit late to the party concerning NFC (the iphone 6 & 6s being the first Apple phones to use the technology). It seems the delay has paid off though as Apple has since released their contact-less payment process – Apple Pay – around the same time as their enabled devices, offering their users a secure and contact-less method of transaction, and with Apple’s flagship smartwatch, you can even wear your wallet on your wrist!
They have been busy on the marketing side too, partnering with banks and major retailers and offering their payment service at every turn – in store, online and even in apps. They have even provided a way to confirm payment via your iPhone’s fingerprint scanner. Pretty sci-fi eh?
It wouldn’t be fair not to mention Google’s answer to Apple pay – Android Pay. So what’s the difference? To be honest, not a lot. They both work on the same form of near field communication and are both secure forms of contact-less payment – they are simply marketed to Apple and Android devices respectively.
But what are the benefits for a small business offering these alternative payment options? Well for one, it makes it much easier (and quicker) for a customer to check out; they don’t need to make an account, enter their address or type out their card details so there is a good chance your conversions would increase as a result.
You would also display either the Apple or Android logo on your site or payment terminal, which is an excellent trust marker, making customers more likely to engage with your brand (and shop with you).
One can even integrate their business’s loyalty scheme and marketing offers into Android pay via an API, making it super easy to entice customers to your latest deals and keep your customers’ transactions & redemption simple & quick.
With all these major benefits happening in this area, I wonder when Microsoft will bring out contact-less payment for their Windows phone?
French designer clothing brand Moncler have incorporated NFC, RFID (radio frequency identification) and QR based technology (yes a mix of all three) into their clothing as a means of preventing consumers purchasing counterfeit items.
While this would be an ineffective use of NFC for high street clothing brands, it kind of makes sense for Moncler to embed these chips in all their garments (since their jackets cost in the range of £2-3000).
While the main function of the chips is to safeguard the authenticity of their products, this also gives the ability to transmit product location from a range to track the whereabouts of the garments from warehouse to shop – reducing loss of stock and keeping a digital record of their products. Pretty sweet eh!
Everyone’s favorite pizza brand has taken to the streets to launch their NFC enabled outdoor advertising campaign, aimed at driving downloads of their mobile app. Featuring NFC enabled posters placed in strategic locations, users simply touch their device to the advert, taking them to the app store or a landing page to download the app.
Whilst many of Domino’s previous mobile ad campaigns were aimed to drive sales, this contact-less ad campaign was aimed at increasing brand loyalty whilst at the same time offering their customers a novel way to interact with their brand.
As you can see, big brands are utilizing NFC in a variety of ways, opening the floodgates for smaller businesses to try their hand at integrating this technology into their marketing & business efforts.
What are iBeacons?
iBeacons don’t technically operate over NFC, but they are related to this form of marketing so it makes sense to tie it all together.
For those who haven’t come across the term, ibeacon marketing is a form of real-time location based advertising (also known as proximity marketing) that communicates packets of data to a user’s smartphone. The ibeacon communication operates over Bluetooth – specifically a newly developed type of Bluetooth technology known as BLE (Bluetooth low energy), featuring significantly reduced power consumption and cheaper operating costs.
These beacons are typically used by high street retailers as a means of communicating offers and geo-specific advertising directly to a user’s smartphone (providing their Bluetooth is enabled & a compatible app is present).
London’s Regent street is one such place where ibeacons are being rolled out in droves and is said to be one of the smartest streets in Britain giving resident brands the ability to track data from their customers’ shopping behavior – Priceless information for those big, data-savvy brands.
From there, they will be able to use this data to:
- analyse customer profiles
- recommend products and stores
- drive brand loyalty
- offer points & discounts
- influence development of new stores & campaigns
The list of benefits is endless, and with over a quarter of consumers stating that they like the idea of ibeacon technology influencing their shopping experience, there’s definitely room for development.
How can you employ NFC in your business?
With large, multinational brands taking the lead, one can ask; “is there any benefit for small & local business in using this technology?”
As mentioned previously, there is much benefit to be taken from incorporating Apple & Android pay into your brick & mortar or online store which include:
- Speedier transactions with less hassle – has the potential to increase conversions
- More secure transactions – mobile wallets used by NFC devices introduce an extra layer of security, reducing the chance of fraud
- Visible trust markers featuring Apple & Android logos – making it more likely for customers to trust your brand & interact
- Integrate your loyalty scheme, offers & discounts via APIs – increasing marketing engagement & brand loyalty
As well as obvious consumer benefits, business owners can use NFC devices to monitor and improve their internal operations and improve the consumer experience including such things as:
- Monitoring employee progress – employees can check in with strategically placed NFC stickers with their mobile devices so employers can track & record their tasks and improve their workflow
- Enhanced customer experience – Products can be pre-configured with all the necessary product information allowing customers to simply touch their device to the product to learn more about it
- Check in & location – Allows your store to recognize when a registered device has entered the store, so as to send offers and push notifications through the app.
With real-time, communication based marketing & services on the rise, it’s becoming increasingly likely that things like Apple pay and ibeacons are here to stay, prompting more and more small businesses to introduce NFC based technologies.
Though it is still early to say, it will be interesting to see how these technologies will impact our purchasing behavior in the long run.
About the Author:
Alex Johnson of Mob.Is.It, an online platform on which you can build and sell mobile apps and websites completely code free.