The results of a summer retail innovation pilot were shared at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) 2012 Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas recently. In his keynote presentation to leading marketers and agencies on “Mobile 3.0,” Patrick Meyer, CMO of thinaire, and his guest speaker, Edward J. Kaczmarek, most recently director of innovation and emerging technology for Kraft (now part of newly-formed Mondelez International), discussed how a group of four industry leaders had aligned in August to pilot Near Field Communications (NFC) smartphone-enhanced shelf experiences and expounded upon the enlightening insights gained.
Partnering with News America Marketing (NAM), a premier publisher of coupons in the U.S. and Canada, and an innovator in in-store marketing, thinaire planned a rich experiential interaction using the new smartphone technology known as NFC, right on grocery shelves. With Kraft aboard as the brand partner, the group approached a major West Coast retailer to test the pilot marketing program in the store’s San Francisco area locations, a region known to have a higher concentration of NFC-enabled smartphone users.
With much of the industry focusing on the e-wallet aspect of NFC, this group focused on a different, more consumer-appealing objective: deeper user engagement and activation, while gaining experience and insights on NFC at the grocery level. The experiment was an initial step to explore the tap and engage technology, which is poised to become a regular part of daily life within the next year.
“The NFC direction is now being decked up by smart marketers in almost every category for 2013, as smartphone use of NFC triples in 2013, and consumers can be engaged in a more compelling, occasion-based and purchase-driving way,” said Meyer.
The rapidly building NFC-enabled smartphone rollout, and consumer acceptance, is primarily the result of two chief factors; major players behind nearly every smartphone brand and carrier incorporating the technology into the new generation of phones already arriving in stores, and brands spanning nearly every category of business working to integrate NFC programming into their marketing efforts. It is forecast that by 2015 there will be 630 million NFC-enabled smartphones in use.
The program was launched at five grocery stores in the Bay Area, with NAM/thinaire embedding smartphone-readable RFID (radio frequency identification) chips within shelftalks promoting Kraft cheese and Nabisco Cookie brands. The shelftalks were placed adjacent to the products they were promoting and invited consumers to tap their smartphones for evolving interactive experiences. thinaire and Kraft created a series of compelling user experiences for the month-long pilot, ranging from a series of new recipe interactions and immediate download of the brand’s popular i-Food Assistant app, to inputs on other Kraft products, and the ability to share any of those experiences with friends.
Kaczmarek and Meyer shared the core findings (the full data was for partner use only):
• Compared to QR codes, the overall NFC “tap” engagement level was 12 times higher than the encumbered, app-required bar codes.
• Consumer’s engagement time increased from regular five to 10 seconds at shelf to 48 seconds when NFC was involved.
• Most significantly, more than 36 percent of shoppers who tapped the NFC-enhanced shelftalk converted it into action, whether saving a recipe, downloading the Kraft app or sharing with friends, etc.
• Across all participants, there were no gross negatives. Consumers referenced wanting to be engaged again with the type of experience shared by the four partners.
“We have explored many forms of mobile innovation to date. To have these initial results from our pilot are very positive and sets the stage for our 2013 brand efforts in mobile,” said Kaczmarek as he addressed the DMA 2012 audience.
In the discussion of “Mobile 3.0” as a high-interest topic for the audience, Meyer referenced that recently a senior Kraft media executive had said that 10 percent of media would be shifting to mobile in 2013. The partnership of thinaire and NAM bringing NFC technology to retail provides opportunities for marketers to shift to mobile solutions at a higher, business-driving level.
“By integrating with thinaire and their mobile NFC-marketing platform, our retail solutions fully come to life in the shopper’s hand,” said Jesse Aversano, EVP of marketing for NAM. “It goes without saying that this is of tremendous value to our client partners like Kraft.”
While the shopper is in complete control of his or her privacy at all points of the experience, the four sponsors of the test were able to gain valuable NFC insights on consumer behavior within the store and inputs to create business building solutions for the future.