Opinion

RIP to NFC? Marketers have failed to give consumers a good reason to use it

The marketing industry must support the development of nascent technologies like NFC to help uptake, writes Rosh Singh, director of digital innovation, Kinetic UK.

Marketers have failed to give consumers a good reason to use it
Marketers have failed to give consumers a good reason to use it

Near Field Communications (NFC) promised much but, in terms of consumer take-up, has delivered little. Why has the technology failed to take off and what needs to change for the technology to succeed?

The current failings are largely down to education, or the distinct lack of it. The average Joe on the street simply doesn’t know what NFC is and why they should be using it.

It’s up to brands and marketers to give consumers a good reason to use NFC. The industry should be giving users a real incentive to interact. The technology and the very nature of how to engage is alien at the moment and we need to be intelligently encouraging users to get their phone out and experiment.

Value exchange

As an industry, we have used value exchange to our benefit for generations. We wanted a user’s name and address so we offered them a chance to win a luxury cruise around the Bahamas and placed a card in the middle of the Radio Times for them to fill in.

Did the user want to go and find a pen, fill in the form, give us their data and then post the form back to us? No. Did they? Yes. They did so because it was made explicitly clear what the value exchange was – you do this for us and you have the chance to get something huge. As soon as NFC was included as a strategy rather than a tool, the game was lost.  

It’s up to brands and marketers to give consumers a good reason to use NFC.

Value exchange is all about thinking from the user’s perspective; we need to start really thinking about what the user wants and what they need. We should work with our brand clients and utilise and lift their unique knowledge about their customers and use this insight to tailor experiences around our users. Why should they interact with us, what’s in it for them?

Audience activation is one of Kinetic’s key focus points for 2014 and beyond, we want to be using Out of Home as the start of an effective two way communication between brand and human. We already know that just using NFC isn’t the answer; the primary objective here is engagement. We want as many people to engage with our campaigns as possible, be that NFC, short-urls, SMS, BLE, QR etc.

Our methodology is to start with the user-experience and then work outwards from there, choosing a mix of the appropriate enablers for the user journey. The likes of Clear Channel seem to be taking charge with Connect, a global OOH mobile interactive ad platform, which could finally explore the vast opportunities between NFC and OOH.

Becomes habit

However, value exchange is only half of the battle. Much of the struggle comes from the very nature of NFC. When technology is effective it stops functioning as tech and becomes habit. Good technology melts into the background and ceases to become a barrier to engagement and usage.

We adopt these features due to their value to us and their utility then forges a habitual bond with the tech, making it blend seamlessly into the background as a part of our daily life and disappear. NFC has a way to go before it becomes a part of our daily life, it needs to first overcome the barriers of engagement and value to the user, then it needs Apple to support it.

The problem with debating technology and adoption is that without the powers of hindsight it is very difficult to ascertain how far along the adoption lifecycle we are, and all the while we have to keep a look out to the peripheries to watch out for something to leapfrog us – Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) could very well be the winning alternative to NFC.

From an OOH perspective, BLE has the opportunity to cause some real waves, but as an industry we have an obligation to become guardians of its use. The fatigue that BLE could potentially cause on the high street could cannibalise it within months so we must ensure this doesn’t happen.

NFC and BLE both have a long way to go before they become a crucial tool for marketers but it is important that we support the development so the uptake goes the way of the mobile and not the Minidisc.