Microsoft’s Next Move Could Be Big for Near Field Communication Companies

As Microsoft Windows 8 is just around the corner, the company’s vision for the future of computing is coming into focus, and it could have a major impact on your local near field communication company. Today, near field communication NFC technology is trying bravely to make the world more interactive and create personalized brand experiences through Quick Response codes and other measures. It’s also on the cutting edge of online payment technology that could replace your real wallet with a virtual alternative.

But there’s one element still missing: Widespread market acceptance.

As anyone who has worked in the tech sector knows, Microsoft has always positioned itself as the company that builds and focuses on accessible technology. While Microsoft hardware is great for technophiles, Microsoft software is intended to work for the broad swath of consumers who don’t consider themselves especially tech friendly. Even in these times, when rival Apple has the highest level of OS penetration yet, Microsoft’s brand identity isn’t diluted; it’s been getting stronger as Windows gets more stable.

That makes Windows 8 a curious move on Microsoft’s part. At first, it might look like the desktop computer is being made functionally similar to a smartphone. But you have to look at the underlying, changing demographics: These days, there are multiple mobile devices per consumer. Millions of consumers have begun to use their mobile device as their main source of ‘net connectivity, although it’s not clear what will happen in this area as companies roll back unlimited data plans. Things look different now.

A Vision for the Future of Near Field Communication NFC Technology

Despite what some early adopters might say, it seems unlikely that the desktop computer is going away any time soon. On the contrary, people will always need a “full sized” computer experience; mobile devices are limited in the kind of hardware they can possibly implement, solely because of the size of their constituent parts. It might be years before a future mobile device packs the power of a modern desktop into a smaller space.

So, what relationship does Windows 8 propose between the desktop and mobile devices? What does it mean for users of near field communication services, including marketers? The desktop will increasingly serve as a “mothership” around which a constellation of mobile devices will orbit. The mobile enabled family will find it easier than ever to notice, collect, and collate location-based offers, “beaming” them between devices.

Right now, Quick Response codes are very geographically bounded. This is part of their charm and one reason they work so well when they’re used properly. But with Windows 8 extending the interactivity between a user’s entire set of devices, the ideal of the Personal Area Network may be coming to life. That means the way a QR code is “sited” physically might become less important as mobile devices can ferret them out for you.

A World of Infinite Choices: Is This Where Windows 8 is Leading NFC?

Imagine being able to step outside, walk down a street full of restaurants or stores and “collect” the special offers in your cell phone as you go by. Perhaps these offers will expire within a defined time, encouraging you to visit a business right away; perhaps you will be able to keep them in a virtual “scrapbook” for a while, but they will only be accessible to you because you were in the right geographic location at the right time.

With the power of distributed computing combined with mobile-friendly networks, you may be able to make purchases faster than ever, get deliveries done or have downloads initiated right away, and even handle all your purchases through a virtual wallet network that will make it unnecessary to carry cash or credit cards. Although Windows 8 is only a small step in this direction, it portends an enterprise focus on the mobile world — and that world will ultimately create greater interactive opportunities with NFC.

Latest Data on Quick Response Codes Suggests the Power of “Anti-Brands”

Let’s take a look at two different views of the Quick Response code.

On one hand, we have an author and CEO asserting that mobile marketing spend will exceed traditional online marketing by next year; asserting that it’s “not a trend” and calling Quick Response codes “deliciously geeky.” She sees the potential for QR to add more than 25% response to the average mobile engagement strategy and to do so in a very simple, cost effective way.

On the other hand, we have the Bloomberg article, where an interviewee states: “About 80% of the time, I’m disappointed that I scanned [a Quick Response code].” Strategist Thaddeus Kromelis, who has done work associated with the Barack Obama campaign, asserts that QR codes “convey the appearance of tech savvy,” but says that only about 5% of Americans actually scanned such a code between May and July 2012.

What’s Going On Here? Can They Both Be Right?

Strange as it might sound, they are both right. Individual near field communication companies can’t control the extent to which the general public understands what a Quick Response code is; but they can position themselves to react to the explosive growth of the mobile segment. More importantly, they can make sure that it’s worth it when someone activates their near field communication reader.

That means becoming an “anti-brand” that explodes the negative expectations some people have of Quick Response, while offering a new vision for exactly what near field communication services can do for customers. What are the aspects of an “anti-brand” in this context? To make QR work, we have to pit it against QR itself.

Here are some ideas:

Visual Appeal: “Deliciously geeky” or not, the visual appeal of a Quick Response code is going to become a more and more sure guide to whether or not it gets a response. There are tons of examples of excellent approaches to this, creating a QR code that looks nothing like a QR code, because the underlying technology is so robust.

True Multimedia Experience: As more people migrate to a mobile platform for a sizeable chunk of their time spent online, they are going to want more rich media. It’s well known by now that videos have a huge response rate, far higher than static text, although both options should be available due to differences in bandwidth availability.

Full Mobile Integration: It’s no longer possible for a business to argue that they have near field communication nfc technology in mind if they push mobile web viewers to a non-mobile website. While you will definitely need to maintain a desktop-oriented site for home use, you should be making plans for a mobile site complete with its own app.

Instructions for a QR Encounter: Instead of assuming everyone knows what a Quick Response code does, think about ways to embed the code into a fully realized message that will walk people through the process of using their near field communication reader. The tone and wording of your surrounding message can influence acceptance of the code.

The Customer Who “Catches On” to Your Code Could Be Yours For Life

Although it’s true that the enthusiasm for QR codes has waned among some consumers, the general trend among consumers as a whole is greater mobile engagement which will begin to sweep those naysayers along in a powerful and exciting new marketing current. To tap the markets that are not yet highly agreeable to QR, we need to work to turn their preconceptions upside down. Any company that does so will win more attention and more loyalty from that tough segment of the audience.

Where’s the Best Place to Put a Quick Response Code? New Research Suggests…

While most businesses — especially near field communication companies — are stepping away from traditional media and relying on an ever-increasing web presence to capitalize on Quick Response codes’ mobile nature, new research by AG Beat suggests that the right response to the evolving near field communication NFC technology landscape might, in fact, be exactly the opposite. Quick Response codes are “finding an audience,” as one source puts it, but the audience may not be where you expect.

Quick Response codes are finally beginning to go mainstream in Europe. Advertising trends analysis suggests that this is the usual “last stop” before arriving in the United States. That’s good news, since the main stomping ground of the QR code only a few years ago was eastern Asian nations like Japan and China, which offer relatively less cultural exchange in terms of marketing trends. The trick is, putting codes in the wrong places or targeting them to the wrong markets is still as ineffective as ever.

If You Want to Use Quick Response Codes to Drive Sales, Try This

Nearly 50% of all bar codes and Quick Response codes scanned in the three month period ending March, 2012 were scanned from a printed magazine or a newspaper. The next venue down the line, product packaging, accounted for 38%. You can consult a detailed breakdown of the results, which were originally provided by ComScore, here: QR Codes Work Best in Magazines, Newspapers.

At first, this might seem counterintuitive. Here in the United States especially, traditional newspapers seem to be dying out faster than we can print them. Plenty of newspapers have disappeared from the realm of print entirely and now exist only in the form of watered down websites with annoying nag screens. That said, though, magazine and newspaper readers are a little bit different from the average customer.

Dedicated readers tend to be more cerebral; more engaged with the material they’re reading, and more likely to respond to related offers than ordinary retail customers who discover a mysterious Quick Response code on a packaged product. Particularly when you advertise in a magazine, you gain some of the prestige of that magazine as well as the reader’s trust that whatever you’re offering will be relevant to their needs.

While this “conferred prestige” effect is lessened in newspapers — all kinds of irrelevant products are advertised in the papers, and people understand that an advertisement does not constitute editorial endorsement — newspapers’ in-house ad departments tend to know enough about their readership to help you target their readership effectively. Done well, advertising in a newspaper is tantamount to using a good, highly targeted direct mail list.

Positioning is Powerful, But Don’t Forget This

As important as it is to stake out a good position in a traditional media outlet, you must also remember that your hypothetical customer is probably reading a magazine when he or she encounters your ad. Running a near field communication reader over your code doesn’t mean that your reader is ready to put down the magazine or paper and peruse your offer. You need to plan your mobile response with this in mind.

As with every Quick Response code, you should be leading your customer to a fully optimized mobile site. However, this alone isn’t enough. Assume you have only a few seconds of the reader’s attention, and provide an easy way to send your link to his or her email address. This will ensure your potential customer is reminded of your site when it’s time to sit down at the computer again. With this simple trick, you’ve ensured that the prospect thinks about your brand and associates it with their favorite reading material.

The Wait is Over: Near Field Communication Will Feature in iPhone 5

Smartphone aficionados have reason to smile today as it’s been announced semi-conclusively that Apple’s iPhone 5 will support near field communication technology. Why aren’t we completely sure? The new revelation comes from independent analyses of alleged iPhone 5 prototypes; no announcement has been made by Apple as to whether its new offering will become the latest near field communication phone.

If so, however, the iPhone stands to become the most versatile tool in the emerging world of near field communication payments, a technology that is sure to become more and more common in the coming years. PayPal has already amply demonstrated the added value that convenient, flexible payment options can provide to standard transactions; plus, major companies like MasterCard and Deutsche Telekom are lining up agreements to get ready for near field communication payments.

Worst case scenario? Companies around the world end up with a hodgepodge of different agreements and devices all aimed at the same purpose. MasterCard already has its own protocol for near field communication payments, called PayPass, but not every near field communication phone is able to use it. With an industry giant like Apple getting involved, hopefully there will be a drive toward standardization across platforms — while ensuring near field communication Android and other phones aren’t left out.

From a functionality perspective, Apple’s new Passbook application comes very close to being a virtual wallet: It can hold tickets, travel passes and a whole lot more. It’s reasonable to wonder, though, what other benefits near field communication technology will offer iPhone users. There’s at least one big one: Device users can easily transfer files to other handsets without going through an arduous file transfer or email process — or using a totally separate cloud app.

(This could be a nice bonus, as iPhone users tend to “flock together.”)

Of course, before we get too excited, it’s important to bear in mind that Apple isn’t first to this party by any means — Google and Microsoft already have robust NFC payment and virtual wallet offerings that have been around for some time. Android holds more than 50% of smartphone market share at 51%, while Apple’s iOS is hovering around 32%. With the seismic shift in the smartphone market brought on by troubles with Research in Motion, though, Apple iOS is growing its share, gobbling up an additional 1.7% and capitalizing on RIM’s 2% decline over the three month period ending in May.

What does all this mean in plain English? Well, Apple’s entry into the near field communication technology world is definitely a good thing, but it’s not the biggest tech news out there. It could make a splash, but there are other players in the market whose choices over the next year stand to impact NFC’s future all the more. Plus, with each competitor holding a sizeable market share, there’s no telling at this stage whether protocols from each manufacturer will “play nice” with one another — or if they will, instead, be a series of impenetrable black boxes for users to deal with!