Bob Garfield

Why NFC will be bigger than QR codes

Consumer use of NFC is growing rapidly, and the benefits for brands are game-changing. Here's why you need to be thinking about integrating near field communications into your strategy.

Near field communication (NFC) is a technology that, among other things, lets devices exchange data by touching or coming into close proximity. In Japan, the consumer adoption rate for NFC is 85 percent. The U.S. is lagging behind with only 10-15 percent penetration. But device makers are including NFC in many new smartphones. And companies are starting to take advantage of the cool new technology.

 

Samsung is using NFC in their "I have a song for you" campaign.

iMedia's Bethany Simpson spoke with Crosscliq CTO Ian Barkley about ways brands are integrating NFC into the marketing plans.

Conversation highlights
0:00 — 85 percent adoption rate in Japan
0:45 — "Smart posters"
1:00 — Better unique tracking
1:30 — NFC ideas beyond downloadable content
2:00 — Advice for using NFC
2:45 — Why NFC will replace QR codes
Run time is 3:30

Crosscliq on NFC: Print is dead! Well, not really. As much as we all would like to think that print is dead, we have to be honest with ourselves. Direct Mail continues to outperform email or ppc campaigns by a large margin and most experienced marketers would claim that demographically focused print campaigns get better response rates than web banner campaigns. So why all the focus on "E" marketing? It boils down to the data. How much data can we acquire to help us in future marketing efforts or assist us in closing a sale. We have become addicts to web analytics and ROI reporting but we seem to have lost track of the value of the impression itself. So why not combine the best of both worlds. No, we are not talking about QR codes, we are talking about something much much better: NFC (Near Field Communication).

 

Comments

Ian Barkley
Ian Barkley December 13, 2012 at 4:26 PM

I personally have done millions of pieces of print with QR Codes, pURLs (using Dukky to track) and have done so for the last 5 yrs. I was a big evangelist for QR codes as well - but usability sucks (how can anyone argue that). Most people prefer typing in a short url or sending a text to a shortcode over scanning a code (many studies have been done). I wish it weren't so - there are great QR Scanners out there (Google Goggles is my favorite) but very few people will take the time to download and launch the app. There are too many variables that can cause a QR Scan to fail (camera's focus distance, low-light, camera flash, etc). There has to be a very compelling offer to get people to spend more than 10 seconds on a print ad and if the process fails then people are reluctant to ever attempt another scan. When cell phones have a 16000 ISO and can natively auto-detect QR Codes (like they do with face rec) then it is a better argument but even Apple (who is currently leveraging matrix codes for Passbook) has not built a native function for QR scanning into the OS.

NFC is in its infancy. The tags will eventually be printed with conductive inks and be encoded- in-line on the presses. We are not far away from that - we estimate the tags will be below .05 on high volumes in the next 2-3 years.

The last 2 major mailing campaigns we did had a 10-14% click rate on the NFC tags (granted we only sent to Android and BB phone owners) but I can assure you that is much higher than my normal .04-1% scan rate that I used to get with my big DM QR campaigns (again their are a lot of factors so I don't want to use that as a benchmark).

No marketer should be exclusive to one or the other but my long-term bets are on NFC.

Robert Bell
Robert Bell December 13, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Today the QR Code can out perform the NFC in print and in most mobile applications. QR Codes don't need any infrastructure and apps are free. You can create millions of variable data QR Codes,print them , mail them and then change the redirect from the "static" QR Code any time you want. Ian was incorrect in the video when he said QR codes are static. I have a customer mailing 30-40 million pieces of mail a month and they are tracking the mailings and implementing the QR codes as we speak. Each application will find its place in the market, but until the NFC gets cheaper, the QR Code will rein as the champion.
We don't publish our company proprietary information, but I can tell you that our QR Code scans are in the multi millions.

Steve Briggs
Steve Briggs December 12, 2012 at 12:46 AM

Ian - sorry if I came on a bit strong. I think the title of your post and the tracking comments in the video hit a nerve, where we so often see the QR Code haters out there. Maybe I'm a little over sensitive :^) I see your points, and I think QR Codes, NFC, AR and Audio Fingerprinting will all have their places and are not mutually exclusive. Thanks!

Ian Barkley
Ian Barkley December 11, 2012 at 11:33 PM

Hey guys, I certainly didn't want to start a war here... Anyone who has seen our platform knows that we support QR, NFC, Apple Passbook (via sms and QR), Audio Fingerprint APIs as well as AR and Image Recognition APIs. Of all technologies NFC is the only one that has native phone support. All others require an app to translate the QR or Audio fingerprint etc to a trigger that calls the appropriate web service or task built into the app. QR codes would be great if it were as easy as the user pressing their camera button and the camera instantly recognizes the code. Unfortunately no one has implemented that into their OS. NFC doesn't solve all of the issues either (obviously you have to be within 5cm of the display and NFC devices are not in enough hands). When I say that NFC has better tracking I am referring to Active 2 Active NFC - P2P protocols. P2P allows you to grab the device id of the user's handset (there are currently privacy law discussions about the use of Device IDs). Obviously IP tracking on phones is unreliable and cookies are becoming more of a concern in regards to privacy but until device ids are completely off the table there is no doubt that it is the most valuable data you can collect (once tied to a name of course). I personally embrace any technology that makes a consumer's path to purchase simpler and more informed but NFC seems to have a better chance of overall success because of its usability. I can personally tell you that our current deployments/case studies are seeing far better use of the NFC tags vs the QR codes. There can be a few reasons why (the gimmick factor etc) but we are seeing a significantly higher engagement rate with the tags (regardless of the fact that iPhone's do not support NFC currently). In no way am I claiming that NFC is the silver bullet for mobile marketing but in the offline-to-mobile world it seems to have the fewest barriers to the consumer. In regards to cost - yes, NFC is more expensive than print for sure and I am certainly familiar with Digital Printing (I was the Director of Business Development for one of North Americas largest HP Indigo Shops - 'Rastar' and Crosscliq still leverages pURLs and Variable QR codes on most of our DM campaigns. Digital Print is certainly in the same boat as NFC - costly but often worth the extra spend. It forces marketers to be more targeted. Regardless, I am open to other opinions. There is room for many.

Steve Briggs
Steve Briggs December 11, 2012 at 10:34 PM

Jim - I totally agree with you. I look forward to working with NFC tags and welcome them into the mix, but when he talks about NFC enabling better unique tracking than QR Codes, I'm sorry but that's just pure BS. Are you telling me that it's easier to program a million unique NFC tags and stick them on a million mail pieces than to print a million unique QR Codes? Hello - have you heard about digital printing? And talk about cost! Those million NFC tags are probably going to cost about 100 times as much as printing QR Codes.

Jim Divine
Jim Divine December 11, 2012 at 8:44 AM

Why do we always have to have wars? I'm not talking about the conventional type - people v people but technology v technology? It seems that there is always someone out there trying to down the latest technology that has been designed (in almost every case) by people's blood, sweat tears and time! I have been working with QR codes and AR technology for years and see value in both, NFC is another that should be welcomed to the party not gatecrashing it and saying how hip it is. No matter the technology it will always be usurped. Let's get what we have on the table and make it useful for those who have the means to use it.
I assume we are all in this to make lives easier? Well stop bickering and boasting and use the energy you have to promote technology, not down it.

Jim Divine