After an in-depth survey of mobile shopper preferences in retail environments conducted by Strategy Analytics on behalf of the NFC Forum, results were discussed in a webinar presentation and subsequent report titled NFC Technology: How Changing Consumer Preferences Create New Opportunities for Retailers.
While responses from online and in-person subjects surveyed were favorably skewed toward near field communication to connect devices (76 percent reported being very satisfied with the experience), quick response (QR) code, Bluetooth beacon and web browser technologies were also part of the survey.
"Now that there is a sufficient combination of NFC-enabled smartphones and other mobile devices in the market, together with a user preference that tends toward mobile engagement, it's now really the right time for retailers to take a good hard look at this technology as they evaluate what their in-store technology looks like for the next one to three years," Matthew Bright said during the webinar. Bright is Chairman of the NFC Forum's Retail Working Group and Head of Technical Marketing at Thin Film Electronics.
The first area of opportunity identified by researchers was quick access to store discounts and log-in to loyalty and rewards accounts upon entering retail stores. For the survey, mobile device users were able to tap in-store signs using NFC or scan QR codes to connect to the store's Wi-Fi network.
"It's really a matter of getting the technology into the user's hands, which is currently there for most smarphone users, but it's also getting them to use it, especially for a scenario like this when they first enter a retail store, in which case the experience becomes more compelling and useful to the consumer," stated webinar participant Chris Dodge, Associate Director of The User Experience Practice at Strategy Analytics. When asked what types of personal information consumers would offer in exchange for such incentives as personalized coupons, discounts and rewards, most respondents were willing to give retailers basic gender, age and occupation information about themselves, but not inclined to reveal similar information about their families.
A second area of interest was access to product information and store inventory. In this case, using one of the connectivity methods mentioned, shoppers were able to learn more about products, check color and size availability and have items shipped to their homes. Participants preferred to identify what they wanted before speaking to sales associates.
The third opportunity identified was access to related product information. In the test scenario, subjects were able to access recipes related to a particular food product on the shelf. According to Dodge, some participants felt coupons or discounts were more helpful than recipes.
"The fourth opportunity, looking at providing the digital shopping cart experience, we found 66 percent of survey respondents indicated some level of interest in using their phone as a digital shopping cart, being able to tap products to add them to a digital shopping cart and finally using NFC to complete their transaction within the store," Dodge said. "Thirty-six percent are very interested in having this experience at their favorite retail shops" and 61 percent would likely go to a store that offered this experience.
Access to detailed information to assist consumers with the decision-making process for large-ticket items was identified as the fifth opportunity. During the survey, the more information shoppers could gather about the product, the more prompt the decision was.
In the test case, where a washing machine was used as the example, information included but was not limited to product videos, warranty details, available accessories, product specifications, consumer reviews and energy guides. Researchers maintained that brands that educate consumers more efficiently could reap sales benefits.
Finally, post-purchase re-orders for products such as print cartridges (for example where the NFC tag or QR code was integrated into the printer to tap or scan at home or in the office) was viewed as the sixth area of opportunity for retailers.
"As shoppers look to mobile devices for real-time advice, product information, product comparisons and reviews from real users, retailers will do well to reach those shoppers in the way that they're most comfortable to be reached," Bright stated in his presentation.
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