In store shopper activation. Bye bye QR Codes, welcome NFC!

I recently started a series of posts called “Beware of Hype” trying to reflect about what happened with some technology or marketing hypes and why they finally didn’t work as expected. I can confess it now: I planned my next Beware of Hype post to be about NFC. This was previous to the iPhone 6 launch rumors, since Apple was constantly refusing to add it to their devices. I was (very) wrong, and obviously there was a reason for it. Now, NFC is the de facto standard for mobile payments.

Although payments will receive the most significant boost thanks to Apple endorsement, NFC can do much more than that. The good thing for Apple”being late” is that there are endless applications to this short range communications technology, and very low cost NFC tags.

NFC is based on RFID, that was supposed to be the future for logistics and supply chain management, but also, for Marketing. In 2004 (yes, that’s 10 years ago, the iPhone wasn’t even launched), Gillete massively deployed RFID tags in their products, not only for out store usage, but also for in store traceability in partnership with Walmart. That has been criticized as the greatest privacy breach ever, and the project was put aside. Today we’re giving our position to many of the apps in our smartphone both GPS for outdoors and iBeacon for indoor without being much problem, I guess privacy concept has a little bit changed since then. The RFID/NFC technology has evolved so much, that tags can be obtained for very few cents the piece.

In fact, some companies such as Samsung with the Tectiles, already provide programmable NFC stickers, as the simplest way to make the phone do things, like set up the alarm, launch an application or join a wifi network, but more interestingly perform actions such as like a facebook page, check in with foursquare or open a web page, which has a huge potential for in store activation and interaction. But wait, there is already something that does more or less that… QR codes.

QR codes are massively used in Marketing as a shortcut between the real world and the digital world through your smartphone. You can read some serious dos and don’ts with QRs codes here. The truth is, between you and me, reading a QR code is not the easiest thing in the world for everybody. My 65 years old mom, owning an Android 4.4.4 smartphone, doesn’t know how to. She doesn’t know she has to download an application for reading the codes, she doesn’t know the products she’s buying in the supermarket are plenty of these codes because nobody told her. The adoption of the QR technology is being quite organic, kids know what they are, some parents and most of grand parents don’t. But tapping something with the phone is sooo much easier… you don’t need an app, just keep the NFC activated and your ready to receive contextual information about a product you want to discover, it’s perfect for smart shopping.

Yes, I know QR codes are much cheaper to print, maybe NFC tags are not for every product, but at their current cost, they are very affordable and give plenty of communication opportunities. Of course iBeacons are there for push communications, but you need an app installed in the phone. They complement themselves, NFC will be used for pull communications when the consumer wants to get something from the product, proactively, and easily.

Imagine clothes with the tag that take you to the online store, or just like the product in Facebook so your friends can see it online. What about cosmetics? having a tag with a detailed product description, skin compatibility tests, cross recommendations… I can’t even foresee all the possible applications, but it seems Apple does, as they’re filing some patents regarding these exciting possibilities. Definitely, after all, NFC will not be a hype, and I will have to find another one for my next post.

Pictures from and

Originally published here


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