Near Field Communication: What it is, and why biggies like Coca Cola, Harrods and Ralph Lauren have fallen head over heels in love with it.

And why you, as a brand marketer, should feel curious about it, too! (Case studies inside, to answer to the curious cat inside you)

Tiny things make huge impacts. Remember the falling apple? It led us to the huge magnet that keeps us lovingly adhered to the earth.
Well, for marketers, little bits of physical occurrences, and technologies woven around them, are metaphoric to the falling apple. NFC is one of them.

What is Near Field Communication?

Ever came across the ‘tap to beam’ command on your Android device? Apple and Android users are well frequented with wireless payment through mobiles, thanks to NFC (we all know about Android Pay and Apple Pay…don’t we?)

Although wireless-cardless-cashless payment is a singular area where the concept of NFC has been judiciously exploited, it is certainly, not all that NFC is about!

NFC is basically a simple utilization of Electromagnetic fields. Information is encrypted onto micro-chips along with an antenna on NFC tags. Whenever these tags come in close proximity with an active device that create magnetic fields (your smartphone for an example), the antenna picks up the electromagnetic radiations. The magnetic field not only offers a communicative route, but also charges provides power to the microchip.

So any device that is NFC enabled, or any passive sticker, which has an NFC chip in it, will be able to transmit data to another NFC enabled device, using the electromagnetic field of the later device.

NFC is primarily used to exchange information between devices that are held closely…the distance, officially being 4 cm and unofficially being 10 cm.

Should this ring bells for you, as a brand?

Hell! Yeah!
Didn’t you get that?
Deal 1: Android and iOS have provisions for NFC already….

…..albeit Apple has restricted its utilities only till Apple Pay, as of now. Why should that be useful information to you? Well, you see, a

Well, you see, a huge huge chunk of the globe’s population are master to the green robot. Since Android already enables NFC on its Operating system, it is an in-built feature on Android devices. You, as a marketer, only have to creatively leverage this feature to get as close as 4 cm to your customers!No extra cost….plain exchange of information….pure consumption of interactive media.

No extra cost….plain exchange of information….pure consumption of interactive media.Deal 2: It makes things quick for your customers

Deal 2: It makes things quick for your customers

NFC has influenced everything- from the way contact information is shared between people standing close to each other, to the way people purchase their groceries from physical stores. The influence piggie-banks maximum points, when it comes to time.

NFC has influenced everything- from the way contact information is shared between people standing close to each other, to the way people purchase their groceries from physical stores. The influence piggie-banks maximum points, when it comes to time.

It’s simple and quick, you see…

You pull out your smartphone, hover it over an NFC sticker or another smartphone, tap on the whatever you have to tap, and whoosh! you get everything that is encrypted on that tag!

NFC has proven to be a blessing for retail….right from super-markets to apparel stores.

An immaculate use of NFC is in smart shelves. Small NFC tags are stuck on the shelf-edges, giving complete information about the product category that has been stacked up in that shelf. product details generally include everything that is there on an individual product’s packaging.

Buyers can brush across shelves, using the retail app on their phone to scan the NFC labels on shelves, they are interested in. It can be a complete cash-less, cart-less experience….because whenever a buyer likes a product, he can virtually add it to the shopping cart of the app.

It is like —

Enjoying the luxury of touching and feeling each physical product without the useless hassle of picking them up and viewing their details and totting them into carts, that you have to push across the whole store.

It is really useful, because along with adding products into their carts, customers can simultaneously view and avail offers and discounts on specific products. In case they are parts of loyalty programs, their loyalty cards are maintained right there, in the app too.

This is an amazing way of enrolling buyers into brand sentiments…specifically, because it is so damn interactive!
It is also possible to communicate media files through NFC. Whoa! Cool way to engage your customers, right when they are picking up their stuff!

And when they are finally done with their strolling and shopping, they can go to check out counters and touch their phones to readers there, to make the total payment all at once. No cards, no change, no queues, no waiting.

Casino, a French supermarket has done it really well (well, atleast partially).

They have divided the whole NFC retail scenario into 3 different POSs for themselves.

1.  A normal supermarket range(only better because of the shelf-edge NFC tags)This would work in the way described above

This would work in the way described above2. Poster stores at out-of-home advertising locations such as metro stations

2. Poster stores at out-of-home advertising locations such as metro stationsPoster stores was an innovative concept, where advertisingPoster stores was an innovative concept, where advertising

Poster stores was an innovative concept, where advertising bill-boards are converted into retail displays. People walking by can use their smartphone to scan the NFC tags stuck here and there on the screen. As they do so, the products they scan are added to their virtual cart. They can choose to later collect their stuff from a physical outlet later on or decide on having all that stuff delivered to their home.payments are made right there, on the posters, using the same

payments are made right there, on the posters, using the same mCommerce engine that is used in the physical store.3. Digital walls (

3. Digital walls (virtual form of poster stores) that was based on a QR code check-out process.This is a yet more advanced version of poster stores, where instead of using their smartphone NFC readers, shoppers would experience the convenience of a touchscreen display. Check-out, in this case, would

This is a yet more advanced version of poster stores, where instead of using their smartphone NFC readers, shoppers would experience the convenience of a touchscreen display. Check-out, in this case, would be process through a QR code and payments would be made through the mCommerce engine.A thoughtful reason, why the Casino felt, NFC would be a good idea is — a better shopping experience for visually impaired people. Product details, listed on the backs of packaging, are tough to read for people with poor eyesight. C

A thoughtful reason, why the Casino felt, NFC would be a good idea is — a better shopping experience for visually impaired people. Product details, listed on the backs of packaging, are tough to read for people with poor eyesight. Color of packaging, size of fonts and improper placement of information could be the most important reasons. All these reasons are erased away with an app on the phone, that lists down all these details in a visually smooth manner.

Deal 3: It’s sort of closer to your audience….literally closer

Yeah, literally…not more than 10 cm away. And that opens door to a lot of consumer information, that, as brand marketers, you would drool too have.Information like –

Information like -How are your consumers behaving around your brand, when no one else is present

  • – How are your consumers behaving around your brand, when no one else is present
  • – Which device are they using
  • – For how long are they interacting with your brand
  • – How loyal are they
  • – Which is their device’s OS
  • – How frequently do they use your products
  • – Does brand engagement actually help you increase product reiteration and subsequent buying?

Other engagement media like sms, social media, loyalty campaigns, offers, discounts and stuff like that, do create a buzz…and although you can, to some extent, measure that buzz, more than often, the measurement is not absolute.

That is not the case when literal proximity is being maintained with your customer. The interaction is sort of impulsive, actions are impromptu and measurements of such actions, immediate.

It’s worthwhile here, to see, how Coca Cola sort of deliberately used an NFC campaign, just to find out stuff about their customers’ loyalty.

This campaign was run at a 100 stores in Australia. The aim was to have Coca Cola’s users download the CCA Clubhouse app. They could do so by tapping their NFC enabled phones on a specified spot on screens of Coca Cola’s already existent POS infrastructure. The platform was laid by Tapit.

There was another mechanism, right there, where buyers would have to scan a QR code using their phones.

Using either of the ways, users would have been able to download the app.

When they would use the Tapit platform, their phone’s OS would be determined and they would be directly led to the respective app store, where from, they could download the app.

This might seem to be a useless pursuit on the surface, but it acted as a 2-axis matrix for the company —

  • – They knew how committed buyers were, to the brand
  • – They knew how Tapit was being perceived

This could help them in their future branding plans and budget (NFC was supposed to be a cheaper and more effective means of engagement with the audience).

That apart, when poeple were busy engaging with tapping or scanning, information about their behaviour and demographic was being taken by the Tapit platform. All this information helped Coca Cola to figure out, which POS outlet(or asset for that matter) was functioning really well and which one was a slow performer. Depending on this information, they would be able to provide more targeted marketing plans and budgets to these POS locations.

Deal 4: You have to promote something that you just pushed out of your factory, and you need to be crazy creative about it.

And by creative, we mean something that keeps your customers thinkin’ — ‘Boy! These folks are super cool! Holy crap…am so proud I use their service already!’

Assume this scenario

Netflix finally listens to the inner voice that says — “Stream football matches live!”

Organically, through advertisement and through event promotions — these would be the 3 main paths of communication, to broadcast the good news to happy fans.

What if NFC were used here?

So Netflix would have partnered with Coca Cola (Don’t get me wrong for repeating this, but I am a huge coke fan). Netflix would also have partnered with Tapit.

And an outcome of both these partnerships would have been small and stylish NFC tags, stuck on Coca Cola bottle caps. When people like you or me, graced with an Android device, scan the tag, we would be taken to the live streaming of the ongoing match on our smartphones.

So there are 2 benefits to this approach —

  • – Netflix has communicated to me, very creatively indeed, that it will now be streaming sports live…so I can be really happy about it.
  • – I get a brand hammering from Coca Cola too, stating, football matches and a gulp of Cola go hand in hand!

Extra benefit — I will act like a villager for the first time and be really happy about all the tapping, scanning and the football match. Once I am done with being a happy orangutan, I shall go on and talk about the awesome thing that Netflix is upto! Another happy orangutan in the chain.

A live example here, again (we love it tried and tested, every time)

It was back when Google launched its all new Google music. People somehow, needed to be actively engaged and informed of the development. Being the giant that it is, Google could have easily gone mainstream, invested in a myriad of advertising options and gotten its music arm go famous.

But….

It decided otherwise.

Google partnered with Tapit to create NFC tags having information about Google music and its music streaming.

These tags were stuck on to posters with assisting graphics…to help people figure out exactly what they were supposed to do with the tags.

These posters were glued to seat backs on buses and trains in the cities of Sidney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The idea was to engage passengers while they were commuting from one place to another.

Hey! Wait! Hadn’t we heard of beacons somewhere? Does this NFC thing sound similar?

Well, no.

While both can be used smartly for brand communication, the technologies are essentially different from each other. Beacons use Bluetooth connectivity to connect with the intended audience. Which means, they cover a fairly huge radius of connectivity.

NFC, however, requires that the reader device is in a radius of 4 cm.

But how does that concern you?

Considering that the main difference between beacons and NFC lies in the periphery of communication, it is quite apparent that beacons are good advertising tools when you want to randomly communicate with more than one of your target audience, at the same time.NFC, however, gives a more personal experience. It is generally more interactive and memorable. The brand in question is just in front of you, and you don’t have to hunt out for the outlet from where you are getting your

NFC, however, gives a more personal experience. It is generally more interactive and memorable. The brand in question is just in front of you, and you don’t have to hunt out for the outlet from where you are getting your personalised messages.This sets a clear cut distinction for you, as a marketer, as to when it is beacons and when it is NFC.

This sets a clear cut distinction for you, as a marketer, as to when it is beacons and when it is NFC.A few more creative examples of NFC campaigns, that known brands have invested in —

A few more creative examples of NFC campaigns, that known brands have invested in —

Technology, however small, can leave permanent imprints on lives, if used smartly and with good intentions. The Battersea Dogs and Cats home knew this

The Battersea Dogs and Cats home knew this well, and used RFID (NFC is essentially based on RFID) to find home for Barley, the dog.

Read the Barley case and other some amazing cases, where NFC was used intelligently (more so, innovatively).

Take-away’s for you

Although NFC brand communication uses a technology that dates back to the 1940’s, It is still a very important part of the way, established brands connect and interact with their audience. It will always remain a part of the integrated marketing structure.

The best things about NFC are:

  • – It is cheap
  • – It does not need to be powered constantly and monitored for maintenance. This brings down recurring infrastructural costs for the brand.
  • – It is just about a microchip…and that’s why, you can get is stuck at odd places like bottle labels too! This is something that you will never get to do with beacons. And that brings forth a huge benefit — you can take advantage of surfaces to promote yourself, you don’t need device installations, if you are going to use NFC.
  • – It’s fun to use…specifically the tapping and rubbing part.
  • – It gives each person from your audience, a personal space to interact with your brand. (by personal, we mean physically and geographically personal)
  • – It gives you a clear view of your brand’s presence and sentimental acceptance.

There are however, a few low’s to NFC too!

  • – It requires an upfront infrastructural cost (you need tags to be made and readers to read those tags. In case of utility in smartphone, you need an app to be made, which will connect your users to the tags that you got made)
  • – Switching on Bluetooth is cognitively, a lighter task, than tapping on the phone’s NFC setting — which makes beacons a more popular option, if transmitting promotional information is all that you want to do.
  • – Unless you are very sure, you want all your buyers/customers/prospects to interact with your brand one by one, you don’t want to use NFC.

So would you want to use NFC in your branding and consumer interaction activities? If yes, what would those activities be? If no, what is stopping you?

Remember to leave your answers in the comments section below.

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Author: Multidots
Multidots

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