In 2004 I was presenting NFC at a conference in Japan, which meant there would be simultaneous translation through interpreters.  The two charming Japanese ladies who were doing the interpreting wanted to check the technical vocabulary with me beforehand, so I told them about smart posters…

“Imagine you’re at a bus stop, waiting for a bus.  There is a poster, advertising a new product from your favourite range of cosmetics, or shoes, or handbags.  The poster has a target saying, ‘Touch your NFC phone here!’.  You touch your phone to the poster and it downloads a website which you then log on to, because you’re still waiting for your bus.  You can browse the new delights on offer, until you see something you really like.  By this time you might be on your bus but you can continue browsing.  Then the website asks you if you want to buy.  Assuming you have set up a payment facility (commonplace in Japan), you click ‘Yes’ and before you know it your new treat is on its way to your home.”

The ladies looked at each other, then at me, and said, “You must not give this to me!”

What this illustrates is the potential power of smart posters – the ability to prompt impulse purchases.  It requires the integration of several elements – phone, posters, retailers, payment – and this will be the challenge for marketers in the future.  So far I haven’t seen many organisations show they appreciate the scale of what is around the corner or the threat if they don’t get involved and their competitors do.

The key elements are: it’s non-invasive – consumers have to take a deliberate action to participate; for retailers this means the audience is already qualified; it maximises use of time when consumers are not otherwise occupied, so a good sales message has a chance of being heard; and it can close for an order as part of the same process.

Some commentators have said they think smart posters will be a more important application of NFC than contactless payment or mass transit.  For the gadget hungry Japanese, it may be a more natural fit – they will probably be the early adopters, as with so many other things.

For more information and to download Trevor’s White Paper on Location Based Marketing and NFC Mobile Phones

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