Near field communications is a data-transfer technology still being touted as a solution that will allow shoppers to pay for items with their mobile phones — but it's also been hailed as a means to transfer information from digital signage displays to people's phones.
If someone viewing the content on the screen can tap the screen to take information with them, it both gets the brand in front of the consumer in a more intimate fashion and increases engagement with consumers, but it also provides deployers with valuable information on engagement.
But while the technology may be nifty, will anyone use it and engage with it, if the content isn't up to par?
Enterprise-level digital signage content management system provider CastNET recently announced that it has developed and is shipping now a solution that integrates NFC into its CMS on a message-by-message basis, allowing it to disperse rich media content to mobile devices that changes with each new message playing on the digital signage screen.
The company's new CastNET with MobileHere solution also incorporates QR, or quick response, code technology into its CMS.
CastNET Emerging Technology Specialist Charles Meyer said in a recent interview that CastNET's solution ties in the NFC tag hardware with the media player and the CMS, updating the hardware each time a new message or content loop is sent to the digital signage screen or display. One of the key benefits to deployers, he said, is the ability to use a single CMS to manage both the digital signage content and the NFC content.
"It gives deployers the ability to have a rich media takeaway at the customer level, to give rich media content to the customer at the foot level, to people on the street," he said. "They can instantly engage that signage and take that relevant content away with them, that's more than just reading some information that's on the sign, and I can do that on a message-by-message basis"
And engaging with consumers' mobile devices can lead to a deeper level of interaction and engagement, Meyer said.
"Digital signage is very surface, meaning that it's just kind of in your face and there's only so much information you can put on the screen," he said. "People love to dig deeper for things that are pertinent to them, that are important to them. When a message comes by and I see something about maybe a restaurant ... wouldn't it be great to be able to grab some very pertinent information to take with me?"
After watching a video posted to the CastNET website showing the solution in use, Digital Screenmedia Executive Director David Drain called the technology "impressive."
"It looks very easy to use," he said. "Obviously there needs to be a strong call to action in the content to let the viewers know what they can get by using their NFC-enabled device. NFC usage is still rather low, but more applications such as these should encourage greater use."
Steve Gurley, president and CEO of Pyrim technologies Inc. and a longtime proponent of integrating digital signage and mobile, said it seemed as though the CastNET solution looks like it has a tighter NFC connection to its CMS than other NFC solutions he's seen that are primarily in use with static signage. But that's only half the battle, he said.
"It sounds like they've tied their CMS to it a little better, which is good, but I will tell you from experience that it's not the technology that's the issue, it's the cost of content that's the issue," he said in an interview. "When you start having to do content on both platforms, that's when things get a little sticky."
Digital signage content that extends to the mobile screen has to "really be deep and really compelling or people just will not use it," he said. "And that means the cost of your content goes way up, starts to take an exponential curve."
Most NFC deployments have tended to rely on content that already exists, Gurley said, such as just directing shoppers to an already extant m-site. The real magic will happen with a digital signage CMS that can help create a multidimensional mobile experience that allows users to drill deeper into content they couldn't get anywhere else.
"What the average consumer is looking for is, 'Give me something really different; give me something that's changing often, give me something that I couldn't get just by going to a mobile website,'" he said. "If it's just a shortcut to that content, then most people really aren't thrilled by that."
Learn more about digital signage and mobile interactivity.