Contactless Solutions for Small Businesses
During this unprecedented time, many brands and marketers are getting creative with their contact-less solutions by initiating campaigns incorporating QR Codes as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) to help drive sales and customer loyalty.
Townsend Tech Tools is a great choice for enabling items with digital interactivity and our additive manufacturing platform makes it even easier to manage your business, brand content, and user experiences across technologies.
If you are interested in deploying smart product/brand solutions we encourage you to schedule a consultation.
What is NFC?
With NFC, contactless communication is a breeze, NFC allows a user to wave their smartphone over an NFC compatible tag or device to send information without needing to touch the devices together or go through multiple steps setting up a connection.
Fast and convenient, NFC technology is popular in parts of Europe and Asia and is quickly spreading throughout the United States.
What you need to know about NFC
- NFC tags are passive yet powerful
- They transmit information wirelessly
- They have approximately a 1” read range
Advantages of NFC
- High customer perception
- High smartphone adoption
- High security / Authentication / Exclusive content
- High value – Use-cases span the entire customer journey & product lifecycle
NFC’s rapid adoption is a result of technology’s many advantages. Consumers often see the technology as desirable when compared to QR codes, with NFC-enabled products becoming highly sought after.
Because NFC tags include a secure element to thwart duplication, they enable product authentication and the ability to serve exclusive content when combined with the Townsend Tech Tools platform. This functionality is simply not possible with QR codes.
Disadvantages of NFC
- More expensive when compared to QR
- More difficult to embed when compared to QR
Where NFC works best
- Durable goods / Embedded products
- Smartcards & Wearables
- Interactive signage
- Branded content
- Product information
- Up-sell / Re-sell
- Exclusive content & offers
The added power of NFC means the technology can often work best when embedded in consumer products – creating an authentic connection between brands and customers. This connection can be leveraged throughout the entire customer journey, from pre-purchase to post-purchase.
With NFC-enabled products, brands can provide branded content directly to customers in-store long before a sales rep can take note. Once a customer understands the value of a product and is ready to purchase they can skip the checkout line, and instead purchase the item right from their phone.
After the sale, brands can provide value-add content to consumers to ensure they get the most out of their purchase. Finally, brands can use this new stream of customer insight to fuel future product decisions.
What is a QR code?
Another form of contactless communication comes in the form of QR codes. QR codes are like barcodes. The user scans the QR code, the smartphone interprets the barcode, and a related website or application opens.
QR codes are similar to NFC technology in that both are fast and require no actual contact between the smartphone and the item containing the QR code or NFC chip.
NFC is more versatile while QR codes remain the same once generated.
What you need to know about QR Codes
- QR codes are a form of barcode that can be scanned with a phone.
- QR codes are usually encoded to a URL and provide users digital content related to a physical thing.
Advantages of QR Codes
- Low cost
- Highly visible and easily recognizable
- Broad consumer knowledge on how to scan
- High compatibility across devices
QR codes can often add no additional printing costs. As a result, QR codes are a great way to engage customers through existing print campaigns, whether that be a magazine, poster, store-display, product packaging, tag, or label.
Disadvantages of QR Codes
- Relies on good lighting conditions
- Need to open an app to scan
- Susceptible to physical damage
- Usually discarded after event/purchase
- Not secure- QR codes can easily be duplicated and shared, and so are not typically a good solution for anti-counterfeit or other sensitive applications.
Where QR works best
- Consumable goods
- Packaging & Labels
- Printed media
- Interactive signage
- Branded content
- Product information
- Up-sell / Re-sell
- Assembly / Care instructions
Because QR codes are printed, they work best on signage, packaging, and labels. The technology can be used to enrich the buying experience during the pre-purchase and purchase stages of a buyer’s journey as well as during branded events.
Starting before the sale, printed media can be enabled to provide branded content beyond what is possible with static print.
In-store product packaging can provide recommendations and product information with a simple QR code to ensure customers understand the value of a product in hand.
During unboxing QR codes on packaging or labels can provide care-instructions or assembly instructions to make sure a customer gets the most out of their purchase.
How do they work & which one do I need?
Creating the Tech
- To create a QR code, a business decides what they want the code to link to and uses a program, service, or platform to generate the image. Printing the image onto ads or displays makes it available to the public.
That’s all there is to it. Yet if the business wants to change the link, they must generate and reprint a new QR code.
- To create an NFC tag, a retail business decides what they want their code to link to. Their NFC tag is then encoded and (usually) placed in or attached to a physical object. Our platform allows owners and brand managers to easily update their NFC objects and displays.
Using the Tech
- With a QR code, the user must open a scanner app on their smartphone, hover over the QR code, and wait for the phone to analyze it and react to the code.
- With NFC, the user waves the phone near the NFC tag area and the information is transferred instantly. No need to open an app or wait for analysis.
The major advantage of NFC is its flexibility. Storing different types of information and changing it on a whim is possible without ever creating a new NFC tag. An owner can simply overwrite the information currently on the tag and create new info.
Each technology has its' advantages and disadvantages
NFC offers faster, easier, more secure transactions and options, yet QR codes still currently reach a wider market since more phones have cameras that can read them than those that can read NFC tags. With its increased adoption though by the iPhone, NFC has become a lot more popular and narrows the gap between itself and QR codes.
When choosing to implement contact-less solutions it is important to consider how they will be managed at scale. Regardless of technology, each solution requires items to be uniquely encoded to ensure proper content delivery and accurate reporting.
Because NFC tags can be embedded into consumer goods, and are not discarded after the sale, they are a highly effective way to deploy engaging experiences throughout the entire customer journey.
Consequently, brands can now engage customers after the sale with value-add content and gain customer feedback to inform better product decisions. As a result, NFC extends the value chain for a product.
NFC Phone Facts
The iPhone has had NFC capabilities since 2014 with the release of the iPhone 6. Initially, NFC was made exclusive to Apple Pay. In-app NFC read capabilities were later introduced in 2017 with iOS 11.
Users with an iPhone 7 and newer can read NFC with an app like Decode. iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, released in 2018, have the ability to read NFC from the home screen without the need for a 3rd party app.
As of fall 2019, Apple unlocked the ability for the iPhone 7 and newer to write NFC tags with an associated app.
The latest iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max all support NFC reading without the need for a 3rd party app and the ability to write NFC tags with a 3rd party app.
Android devices were first-to-market with NFC support in the early 2000s. Unlike iPhones, Android devices do not require an app to utilize NFC. Instead, reading is enabled from any screen whenever the device is unlocked.
Android devices support NFC in its three modes: read/write, card emulation, and peer-to-peer (P2P). NFC card emulation is best exemplified by Android Pay, and P2P by Android Beam file transfers.
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