In the near future: the rise of NFC



Is near field communication heading in the right direction, or is it in danger of falling by the wayside? (© Fotolia / Ben Chams)

Is near field communication heading in the right direction, or is it in danger of falling by the wayside? (© Fotolia / Ben Chams)

Near field communication (NFC) and QR code capabilities provide the opportunity for advertisers and consumers to interact with brands on the go using just their smartphones. However, the market has not yet decided what is the best way to provide potential customers with the ultimate consumer experience. So what do industry experts think is needed for these technologies to realise their potential?

The leading media owners have already shown their interest and support for NFC, with Clear Channel launching 10,000 NFC and QR code-enabled Adshel panels and digital roadside panels across the UK this year.

In 2012 JCDecaux and Kinetic ran their ‘Test the Near Future Project’ – the largest trial of NFC-enabled poster sites in the UK. The four-week trial was held in the affluent commuter town of Reading and drove a high number of interactions on advertising from top brands including Unilever, H&M, Morrisons and EA Games. The content on offer included movie downloads, previews of TV shows and games, a chance to win a driving experience, supermarket vouchers and links to the brands’ social media channels. The results of the trial showed that 3,000 people in Reading scanned the poster sites, the equivalent of a million people nationwide. There were over 6,000 interactions across the four weeks and NFC take-up grew by 15 percent over the four weeks as people grew used to the idea of interacting.

“The study found that the brands that elicited the most positive interactions did so through a combination of relevance, dynamic content and a strong call-to-action,” notes David McEvoy, marketing director at JCDecaux.

Nick Mawditt, Kinetic’s global director of marketing and insight, says that there are no real barriers to entry for media owners. “Clear Channel and JCDecaux have both launched the capability for NFC interaction via their national networks of six-sheets, and other media owners including Primesight and Admedia have NFC capability in their panels. Any barrier currently is in consumer awareness and adoption.”

Mike Baker from the Outdoor Media Centre agrees: “The main barriers to date are poor sign-posting, poor site labelling, conflicting technology standards, consumer unfamiliarity and the lack of pre-loaded software on the devices.”

“QR codes are cheap to put in print media but poor at user exchange (UX),” warns Mark Selby, a mobile technology expert who is currently visiting professor at the University of Surrey, home of the new 5G Innovation Centre. “Some argue print is dying: I disagree. Consumers value a slick UX. If your media is low budget and UX is not important, go QR.”

There is also the mobile device giant Apple refusing to include NFC in its latest devices. “I must say I was surprised that the iPhone 5 didn’t have NFC capabilities,” observes Ocean Outdoor marketing director Richard Malton. “I think once Apple is confident enough to include NFC in its own locked system then I wouldn’t bet against NFC taking off at a massive rate. Apple is too good at getting this type of thing correct.”

New campaigns are being launched to reap the benefits of NFC. In September, Nestlé ran the first nationwide NFC-enabled campaign on roadside sites where chocolate bars were fitted with GPS trackers, by which means the lucky winners were found and given a cash prize. Sony used shopping malls and roadside spaces last October to offer consumers the chance to download an exclusive music track by swiping their smartphone on the touch point at the advertising site.

“There are going to be different ways of offering consumers connectivity and purchase points,” says Tim Bleakley, Ocean Outdoor’s chief executive. “NFC is more suited to close proximity small-format outdoor than the large digital spectacular formats that we specialise in. I still wonder exactly what is the value of NFC in a world where consumers are becoming used to visual imagery and photography on the move as a way of life. This may, in the end, disable NFC – just my view. Also, the wide-spread connectivity options offered via WiFi might affect the need for NFC.”

Baker concludes: “Experts forecast 75 percent penetration of smartphones in the UK by the end of the year. My prediction is that there will be a tripling every year for five years on the number of campaigns and revenue involving NFC.”

First published 24 January 2013 – Output

NRHA invites industry to Rethink Retail


BrightSign's digital signage has been used in retail environments including FNAC stores in France

BrightSign’s digital signage has been used in retail environments including FNAC stores in France

This week, the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) is holding its Rethink Retail Conference in Las Vegas, addressing two hot topics: digital technology for retail, and loyalty marketing. The focus on technology is not surprising, in particular since the association’s recent studies show real increases on sales when digital signage is used in shops.

The NRHA has published the results of research that compared sales of specific products in stores that used digital signage for promotion against stores that did not. For the research, the NRHA teamed with BrightSign customer Aubuchon Hardware, a large hardware retail chain with 130 stores in the USA. The results of the NRHA test confirm that product sales increased when interactive digital signage is used.

Aubuchon Hardware branches saw unit sales rise by 23 percent for interior paint, 45 percent for smoke detectors and a remarkable 178 percent for air filters in stores with BrightSign-powered digital signage promoting specials on those products, compared to Aubuchon stores without digital signage.

“The information we’ve received shows every hardware retail location using our BrightSign players reported significant sales lift,” said Jeff Hastings, BrightSign chief executive. “The hardware store trials clearly support the fact that highly visible product information with moving graphics and streaming content creates a measurable ROI for store management. When you see such a substantial increase in sales of paint and air filters, certainly not what you would consider impulse buys, the impact of digital signage over printed signs becomes obvious,” he emphasised.

For the test, Aubuchon placed Endcap digital signage displays powered by BrightSign players in six stores and ran interactive presentations produced by the NRHA for one month. The sales results were then compared to six other stores in the chain that historically had similar sales for the products tested.

Intel Digital Signage Endcap Concept is based on second generation Intel Core processor technology, and uses the Intel AIM Suite built specifically for anonymous audience measurement. Endcap works two ways: not only does it provide retailers with valuable information about its customers, but it also allows them to send offers, recommendations and promotions to smartphones, PCs and other devices.

BrightSign is making waves in the market. In April it launched smaller, lower cost HD solid-state digital signage controllers. The new HD line comes in three flavours: BrightSign HD120 – a basic interactive model; BrightSign HD220 – networked looping model; and BrightSign HD1020 – a networked interactive model. The company will be exhibiting at Screenmedia Expo in Earls Court, London on May 16th and 17th.

Back in January, BrightSign and signagelive announced their collaboration. Jason Cremins, chief executive of signagelive explains: “We selected BrightSign players for their proven reliability, advanced features. BrightSign range of networked devices can be integrated with signagelive to provide a solution that rivals the technical capabilities and stability of more expensive PC-based solutions.” Screenmedia Expo visitors can also see how BrightSign works with cloud-based digital signage solutions from signagelive on the latter’s stand.

First published 3 May 2012 – Output