Future-proof your brand with NFC

Sep 01, 2017

Apple’s September operating system update will allow the latest iPhones and Watches to read NFC tags. The brand’s ability to influence mass audience adoption means that we could soon be living in a more NFC-connected world, says Cameron Worth, founder and director of Internet of Things agency, SharpEnd.


How prepared are you for a fully connected world? A world where the products you sell and the environments that surround us have the ability to engage the consumer post-purchase, build advocacy and greater trust in your brand, plus deliver real added-value in both the wider connected home setting and on customers’ mobile devices.

We work with brands to help prepare them for this rapidly approaching future. Smarter homes, smarter packaging, smarter retail and leisure environments, combined with smarter thinking are continuing to evolve consumer expectations apace.


A game-changing moment?

In September, Apple’s operating system update will add NFC tag reading to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, while the release of watchOS 4 will support NFC tag reading on the Apple Watch.

Six years ago, only a handful of the people I know believed that NFC would fully crossover into mainstream culture but Apple’s ability and track-record in influencing consumer behaviour makes this particular iOS11 update incredibly significant.

At the moment, NFC capabilities already built-in to more than one billion iPhones worldwide can only be used for Apple Pay. The new framework will enable the latest iPhones to read any tags and take action on them based on a phone’s location.

Android phones already have this functionality. It’s something we were able to capitalise upon on behalf of Pernod Ricard for the UK trial of 45,000 Malibu NFC connected bottles.

We then followed up this pilot with a campaign for the Irish market, which saw Jameson Whiskey deploy connected bottles to mark St Patrick’s Day this year – again with NFC tags incorporated behind the crests on the bottle labels.

When one of the tags is tapped by an NFC-enabled device, the consumer is taken directly to an exclusive microsite, offering unique brand content and competitions, without the need to download an app.

These two examples of smart packaging enabled Pernod Ricard to communicate with an ‘always on’ audience post-purchase; garner insights that could then be used to better engage with shoppers; build brand loyalty through technological innovation, create a seamless user experience and compelling content; plus drive marketing innovation in the beverage sector.


Endless possibilities

Now, just imagine the possibilities of scale now that Apple devices are joining the NFC party. However, it’s important to stress that the Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t just about connected brand packaging. With the application of NFC tags – the possibilities are endless.

Product examples include menswear brand Dyne and ski and performance-wear brand Spyder. Both of which have been working with a Dutch technology company to trial clothing with embedded NFC technology for a while now.

Dyne’s customers can tap the NFC tag embedded in the fabric of each garment and get personalised content, such as how the product was made, or links to lifestyle content such as Soundcloud music playlists.

In October last year, Spyder launched a US ski team collection of NFC-enabled clothing and gear. The technology enables users to access location-based information including weather and snow conditions while interacting with social media in real-time.

Alongside packaging and products, the popularity of accessing information, offers and other types of content via NFC tapping will also shape the world around us.

Travel networks have already eased queue congestion with tap to pay, while the evolution of the smarter cityscape will enable commuters to receive all sorts of travel updates, discount codes and transport schedules with the tap of a phone.

Smart environments will also transcend ‘tap to’ NFC propositions and become more embedded, with sensors populating bars, hotels, festivals, nightclubs etc.

We call this Smart Spaces – the ability to activate the space around the product to deliver intelligent services and experiences.

An example of Smart Spaces is a joint initiative we delivered with The Absolut Company and Nordic Choice Hotel Group.

We created a fun, informative and connected bar. Each cocktail glass was fitted with an identifier and readers were embedded on the bar top. This allowed our bar to recognise which drink was being served and then display that cocktail’s ingredients or the story behind the drink on a screen while the cocktail was being prepared.

A guest’s keycard data was also used to create personalised greetings so that when people entered the bar, they received a personalised bottle image with their name on the label.

The potential of NFC and the IoT is that they will let brands connect with consumers via the retail environments their products are sold in, while enhancing customer enjoyment in places where the product is consumed. Apple’s iOS11 update will see the demand for these NFC-fuelled brand interactions rise. SharpEnd is looking forward to bringing more brands onto the network.

If you want to get in touch with Cameron, email him on cameron@sharpendagency.com

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