CETW12: NFC will sweep away QR codes

Near Field Communication will be the consumer engagement strategy QR codes never were, and is going to change how retailers market to consumers — just as soon as those consumers learn how it works, Steve Gurley, president of Pyrim Technologies, said today at Customer Engagement Technology World in New York City.

Although most Americans consider NFC the same thing as mobile payments, that's a misconception, Gurley said in a panel called "How NFC/Digital Signage Could Change Shopping As We Know It." Conducting a mobile payment is just one of its functions. According to Gurley, the technology can be used in one of three ways:

  1. Peer-to-peer communication, as seen in the Samsung commercials, as people touch their phones together to exchange a song or other data;
  2. Secure card emulation, for instance a hotel keycard with an embedded NFC chip that you tap on the door as opposed to sliding it in and out;
  3. Read/write, a catch-all for exchanging data back and forth.

As more handset manufacturers release NFC-enabled phones, consumers are becoming more comfortable with the technology and will eventually be well versed in how it works. As this happens, retailers will be able to embed NFC chips into digital signage displays and other marketing materials to interact with their customers, Mikhail Damiani, CEO of mobile marketing solutions provider Blue Bite, said during the panel.

"There is a huge opportunity to use NFC to engage customers," said Daminani, who used the example of an NFC-enabled poster. The customer merely has to tap his phone on it to get the value, which is usually something like a coupon or a piece of information. This is a much easier way for them to engage than to go through the multistep process of scanning a QR code.

"It's the most intuitive technology we've seen in years," he said.

Gurley agreed, citing what he called the "Linda Factor." His wife, Linda, won't use hard-to-use technologies, such as QR codes, because she won't take the time to download the app, wait for it to load and then scan it, Gurley said.

She might, however, tap her phone on a sign.

"Yes, the codes and NFC are both ways to engage, but Linda thinks they're the biggest waste of time, and if she won't use it, her friends probably won't use it either," he said.

Although the deployment of QR codes has skyrocketed in the last year, consumers aren't using them; usage is stuck at about 6.5 percent, Gurley said.

"Anything that makes you take out your phone, launch the app, wait for it, scan it — most people won't use it. If Linda could tap it, she might love that, but it will also depend on the type of info it will give."

Read more about digital signage and mobile interactivity.

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