Today’s consumers tend to purchase brands based on experiences they have before, during and after the purchase. According to a global study conducted by Ipsos, a key factor affecting purchasing decisions is how consumers feel when they interact with a brand. The opinions they form at key points – such as when they ask for information or request a service — determine whether or not they will continue a relationship with a given brand.
Since the average consumer spends more and more time engaging with their smartphone, it makes sense to use the smartphone as the entry point for these experiences. And now, with many smartphones offering Near Field Communication (NFC) as a standard feature, companies can start using NFC to connect everyday products to the cloud and deliver better brand interactions. This is done through what is known as NFC tagging, which enables completely new brand-customer experiences and business opportunities that were impossible to imagine a few years ago.
NFC thus becomes a strong enabler of the Internet of Things (IoT). Each product is now capable of being a direct, one-to-one consumer touch point, and brand owners can operate their products today as smart, interactive, and trackable objects, able to capture unique consumer-product data and drive brand loyalty and intimacy.
NFC connectivity for new experiences
Here’s a NFC system view, to show how this can work:
The physical product — a dress, a bottle of wine, a handbag — has an NFC tag on it. Each tag carries a unique identifier, giving the product its own digital identity. Any and all information relating to the product can then be tied to the unique identifier.
The consumer taps the tag with a smartphone to initiate an action. The action can vary depending on the need: get additional product information, find offers and promotions, read ratings and reviews, like or follow a brand on social media, verify product authenticity, register a purchase, receive loyalty rewards, view warranties, and so on.
The smartphone’s browser hits a cloud-based platform that tells the phone where to go, based on the tag’s unique identifier and web address. Different programmable rules can trigger different content and user experiences. At the same time, information about the NFC interaction is captured by the cloud’s intelligence service.
Depending on the configuration, the cloud platform can log real-time details of the interaction, such as the location, time/date or user type, and store any historic interactive data. It can also log any personal data the consumer decides to share, such as profiles or interests. For smarter applications, the platform can also share data with other cloud systems, such as CRM, inventory management or e-commerce systems.
Good for the consumer, good for the brand
When physical products that don’t traditionally have built-in electronics, such as dresses and wine bottles, connect to cloud-based functionality through the use of NFC tags and a user’s mobile device, these physical products become part of the Internet of Everything and can deliver valuable benefits to both the consumer and the brand owner.
- One-to-one customer interactions: Brand owners can supply context-sensitive information, based on store location or the time of day. After the purchase, consumers can receive additional customized content, including specific warranty programs, exclusive offers, feedback forms and more.
- Location-based marketing: Brands can gather customer locations (based on cell tower, Wifi or GPS) and then deliver highly targeted information based on consumer taps, or they can use “geo-fencing” to set triggers within a particular location radius.
- Enhanced personalization and loyalty programs: Brands can offer a value exchange, in the form of a voucher or special offer, in exchange for personal data such as contact details or preferences. Customers can create personal histories for the things they own and can participate in loyalty programs.
- On-demand product authentication and traceability: NFC tagging makes it possible to verify authenticity and trace a product’s history, so consumers can be assured that the product they’re considering is genuine. Shoppers can become partners in the battle against counterfeits, since they can authenticate a product at any time, and from anywhere. Traceability can also make the product more engaging, linking a bottle of wine with its vintner, or a dress to its designer.
- Smart device configuration: NFC tags also permit accessory configuration. For example, in an electronic tooth or skinbrush with interchangeable heads, the optimal speed may be different depending on the head. NFC can allow the brush to recognize the head and act accordingly, thus optimizing the user experience.
For the consumer, the cloud-enabled NFC interaction leads to deeper engagement, unique experiences, contextually relevant information, and more personalized service. For the brand owner, the interaction generates real-time data about product transactions and consumer activity, and this data can be used to refine marketing campaigns, while making operations more efficient.
Three real-world examples
Forward-thinking brand owners are moving quickly to introduce products with NFC connectivity and applications. Here are three that speak for themselves:
For more examples of how cloud-enabled NFC can make consumer products smart, interactive and trackable, check out this short animated video.
About the author
Sylvia Kaiser-Kershaw is a marketing professional with 15 years of experience working across markets, including technology, FMCG, prestige and financial services. She is an expert in the definition and delivery of cross-channel marketing solutions for international organizations. At NXP, she is responsible for NFC/RFID applications that increase engagement between brands and consumers by adding digital connectivity to physical media and products.