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What is NFC?

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
April 8 2015,
updated
September 26 2020

If you’re thinking it may have something to do with Southern fried chicken, then you’re WAY off the mark. It’s actually more technical (but way less tasty) than that:

“NFC is a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 10 cm distance.”

Direct mail is our thing. Or at least it’s one of them. So we’re always on the look-out for new and exciting innovations, particularly those that can join up online and offline. And, while NFC has been around for a while (think contactless payments, Oyster cards, etc.) it’s now gaining traction, awareness and, critically, affordability for direct mail applications too. All conveniently helped by the recent announcement of iPhone 6 and confirmation that it will be shipped with NFC technology.

Back in 2012 NFC hit the news with JC Decaux’s large trial of NFC-enabled billboard posters across Reading in Berkshire. The results from the trial showed that, using their enabled smartphones, over 3000 people had scanned the poster sites which acted as a gateway for more information about the brands involved, links to vouchers, videos, competitions, etc. Those interviewed gave an overwhelmingly positive response (78%) about the experience, with 87% saying they’d be likely to repeat the experience and another 80% of people without NFC phones saying that they’d like to use it in the future.

Sounds like a huge success? You’d think so but, rather like QR codes which have taken longer than anticipated to go mainstream, the widespread adoption promised didn’t materialise straight away. That looks set to change.

Enter NFC-enabled direct mail. Either printed on NFC paper, enabled using an NFC sticker or embedded with an NFC chip, a DM piece is able to communicate wirelessly with the recipient’s device just by them tapping, touching or waving over it taking them to… well, wherever the marketer pre-determines. The options are many, think:

  • Visiting a webpage
  • Launching a video
  • Registering interest
  • Generating a discount code/coupon
  • Checking-in at a location
  • Prompting an inbound phone call
  • Sending an SMS
  • Following/liking on social media
  • Updating a Facebook status or creating a Tweet

Though perfect for direct mail, NFC has countless other uses too from business cards to posters, security tags to event tickets - even menus for fried chicken shops perhaps. Seems “tap this space” rather than “watch this space” is set to become the new order of the day!

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