Is NFC the Future of Interactive Out of Home?
As we've outlined previously, consumers are increasingly embracing out of home creatives that offer interactivity via smartphones.A recent survey by Clear Channel and Posterscope backs up that finding. Their study found that 23% of consumers had interacted with a poster advert using their smartphone - 2nd only to print adverts (28%). And they're not only interacting - the survey found that they were enjoying the experience too (84% of those that had interacted) and recommending it to their friends too (72%).At present, the dominant interactive technology is QR codes, with 2/3s of the sample having used them. This compared to only 20% who had used mobile barcode scanners (in 2nd place) and 7% that had used Bluetooth (in 3rd) to interact with ads.However, one of the least used interactive mobile technologies, NFC - only 3% of the sample had used it to interact with advertising - is the one which arguably holds most potential for outdoor advertisers.NFC, or Near Field Communications, is a wireless technology that allows individuals to make transactions and exchange digital content with other NFC-enabled devices. In 2011, just 5% of phones were NFC-enabled but a recent report released by MarketResearch.com predicted that by 2016 this figure would be up to 50%.The other problem with NFC is that it's very little known - 2/3s of consumers don't know if their phone has NFC and even 60% of smartphone owners who's phone has NFC are unaware.So why does a technology with low levels of penetration, low levels of awareness and low levels of usage offer such potential to out of home advertisers? Well, for a couple of reasons.First of all, there's the ease of use. Just by tapping their NFC-enabled phone to the NFC-enabled poster when invited to do so, consumers can carry out a variety of actions from downloading vouchers to getting directions (e.g. to a local store) or liking a brand's Facebook page. No need to download apps or take photographs with a phone camera as for QR codes.Secondly, NFC is a technology that offers this potential almost exclusively to out of home as an advertising medium. Digital out of home sites can be NFC-enabled - TVs and newspapers cannot.But NFC's greatest potential lies in its usage as a wireless payment technology. Combine this with NFC-enabled poster sites and you have an interesting possibility - the ability to purchase direct from a poster site. In fact, 57% of the Clear Channel/Posterscope sample would be prepared to purchase products from a NFC-enabled poster using their smartphone.When this subject was further probed in the survey, there didn't seem to be a product category that consumers wouldn't consider buying from a poster - including clothing, beauty/personal grooming products and even flights. In fact, many saw the convenience of purchasing 'on the go' and then collecting the product in store or having it delivered.However, before this vision is reached, NFC does have to overcome some barriers, and not just its lack of awareness. 30% of the sample wouldn't use NFC-enabled poster sites - mainly because they weren't convinced by the utility but also because of fears over security.Nonetheless, NFC does offer some interesting possibilities to premium and luxury advertisers, not least the opportunity to turn billboard sites into microstores that deliver a tangible commercial return. There are some significant barriers to overcome before adoption becomes significant - even amongst affluent consumers who tend to be at the forefront of the adoption of new technologies - but for premium and luxury brands, NFC does appear to be a technology to watch very closely.