Our mobile devices may have become an extension of ourselves -- yet paradoxically, they demand too much attention, and risk detracting from our real experiences. This is something marketers are only too aware of as they strive for the most frictionless way to deliver their brand messages -- and it is why NFC marketing is fast becoming the new oil. Its ease of use, however, is only one reason that marketers need to sit up and take notice.
NFC -- short for Near Field Communication -- utilizes electromagnetic radio fields to allow wireless communication and data exchange between digital devices such as smartphones. The technology first emerged in the 1980s, and has been buried under the bonnet of payment engines for the last few decades. It is only just starting to emerge from its contactless payments roots as an exciting newcomer in the marketing arena.
It was not that long ago that touchscreen technology was only seen on the likes of Minority Report. Now we have the means to connect everything that exists physically to the Internet through the application of ubiquitous tags and sensors. Kevin Ashton, co-founder and executive director of MIT's Auto-ID lab, talks about our expectation, as consumers, to overlay the logic of the Web to objects in the physical world, and as we do so we are shifting toward a time when everything down to a single product on a grocery shelf will have a unique digital identity.
QR codes may well have been at the cutting edge of leveraging content from just about anywhere, but NFC delivers a richer experience without the need for downloading, scanning or finger-typing. It is less disruptive and much more intuitive.
Yet out-of-home advertising campaigns such as these are barely the tip of the NFC iceberg, We foresee NFC tags turning Kevin Ashton’s predictions into reality -- a reality where every object naturally becomes an element of the media landscape, capable of interacting directly with end-users to deliver commercial messaging.
Leveraging branded content in this way is certainly worth enthusing about -- but the other, potentially more powerful value to marketers is the immediate access to real-time statistics and the ability to change content across thousands, even millions of assets within seconds. This is uncharted territory -- and potentially one of the reasons marketers are only just starting to nudge into action as the implications sink in.
In a manner reminiscent of "The Hunger Games" (but less sinister!) marketers can now closely follow and tweak campaigns as they develop. They can identify phone ID as well as time and location of tap each time a consumer taps their NFC-enabled phone on a promotional campaign. The NFC tag can be programmed to deliver specific content depending on the type of phone used through to the gender of the user. Likewise, the content can be programmed to be weather, day- or time-sensitive and enables those collecting the data to rapidly respond to real-time results.
This level of flexibility means campaigns can be tailored and hyper-personalized across vast stretches of territory. Interaction has never been so powerful.
Certainly, NFC marketing offers a new paradigm in experiencing media, as it cuts through the need to take multiple steps to experience online content. But that is only one of its many dimensions -- when one tap is all that is required to enhance the brand-consumer engagement and provide a smooth user experience, then it is up to the marketer to create content-rich, exciting, fluid and dynamic campaigns. The boundaries for consumer engagement have all but disappeared!