News America Marketing and Thinaire have teamed up to create a new near-field communications (NFC) program for retail companies across the United States. The initiative, which will work with the SmartSource brand, combines radio frequency identity (RFID) tags and NFC technology to give customers a mobile experience while they browse in the store.
People typically talk about NFC in relation to mobile payments, but News America is aiming toward a broader market experience. Specific shelves will be equipped with sensors that interact with any nearby mobile phones with NFC capabilities, delivering “branded media content,” like promotions, extra product information, and similar data.
What if customers are not interested in having ads pop up on their devices as they navigate the aisles? The Thinaire press release specifies that shoppers will need to put their phones “in proximity to in-store media,” getting them close to a Shelftalk or Shelftalk Banner chip before they activate.
Only 31 percent of moble developers are currently supporting mobile near-field communications, but research shows the technology is on the rise, with more developers working on implementations that support NFC image capture, video-image capture and global positioning systems (GPS). Thinaire predicts that there will be 630 million NFC-enabled devices globally by 2015.
The marketing angle may prove especially interesting for brands that want a few new ways to connect to customers. Even grocery stores may be able to sell NFC shelf space that automatically uploads a coupon to nearby smartphones for instant savings. But the shelf-activated game could grow much deeper on more involved kiosks. What about an instant upload of models showing off the latest fashions — in video clips — for a clothing store? Or how-to instructions at home improvement kiosks?
News America and Thinaire have not yet given many detailed examples of how their technology can be used, but they have announced that “recipes, promotional games, sweepstakes, digital coupons, app downloads” and similar brand content can be delivered through the system. Companies can also choose to offer social sharing so customers can immediately share whatever they are experiencing with their friends.
Effective use of these systems could add up to some significant brand representation, and the companies have a few facts to back up the potential. In a test market including Kraft Natural Cheese and Nilla Wafers, more than a third of customers who used the near-field communications options took some type of uploading or sharing action — with engagement levels 12 times higher than the so-yesterday quick response (QR) codes.
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