The role of RFID and Digital Marketing
How close are we to having a viable retail system that uses RFID for marketing, inventory control and price changes that can be used in various types of Retailers and what qualities does that system need to have in order to function correctly in a fast paced Retail Environment?
Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is a new tracking technology that involves small tags that emit distinct signals. Retail business owners can use remote scanners to read RFID tags placed on individual products, enabling them to record a variety of information, including quantities of various stock items and their precise locations.
RFID tags carry unique product numbers. If consumers pay for goods with a credit, debit or shopper’s discount card, retailers can link the purchases to the recorded RFID data and use that marketing information to map out individual consumers’ movements through a store. This sort of data can help a retail store make improvements, for example, by helping to optimize a store’s layout to match typical consumer behaviors.
Suppose a grocery store wants to inventory its goods. Manually scanning bar codes or counting products is resource-intensive: workers must move aisle to aisle, tabulating items individually. In contrast, RFID scanners can read tags as far away as 20 feet and record hundreds of tags per second, meaning employees can quickly scan shelves to record quantities and locations. Some stores find it cost-effective to install permanent RFID scanners to provide real-time monitoring of stock. The greater efficiency helps marketers ensure that products are always in sufficient supply to meet consumer demand.
Shoplifting is a serious concern for retail store owners. One option is to direct staff to watch customers closely, but this approach has two major disadvantages: the extra work distracts staff from other responsibilities, and customers hate being watched. RFID technology offers an elegant solution: a remote scan of shoppers as they leave your store can reveal if they are leaving with stolen merchandise. As the cost of RFID technology decreases, this security solution becomes an increasingly cost-effective way of decreasing theft.
Your customers might not like you scanning their shopping carts or persons remotely or that you can track their movements throughout a store. RFID technology is still in its growing stages at publication date, so it is not yet clear on which side of the fence consumer opinion will land. For now, retailers should recognize that privacy issues are a growing concern.
The emerging technology of RFID brings with it a number of unique features that could change the way we engage on social media.
With this change comes the advantage for businesses to better craft their marketing efforts to capture social media users in newly defined ways. In today's blog, I will be taking you through exactly what RFID is, examples of it in use, and ultimately how it could improve social media marketing.
What is RFID?
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and is essentially a system that wirelessly transmits the identity of a certain individual or object (as a unique serial number) via radio waves.
To put it simply, RFID is basically a small computer chip. On this small chip, it can store information either about you or a specific object. Each cheap has a unique serial number, which ultimately becomes tied to the information stored on the chip. The function of RFID comes in a variety forms, including a subset known as Near Field Communication (NFC).
Depending on the functions of the device utilising RFID, it can allow you to integrate it with your social media accounts. Then, if you were to scan your RFID device against another RFID device that offers social functions, it could perform a task such as automatically updating your Facebook status.
With RFID and NFC there are certain differences. Typically, NFC is used for more secure functions, which is why they only work on a close proximity (near field) basis. RFID, however, allows you to perform more functions without necessarily requiring the same level of security or close proximity.
Real world examples of RFID
One area where RFID is becoming notably popular is at music festivals, where it began to truly emerge last year at famed festivals such as Coachella and Bamboozle. Now, this year, RFID wristbands will becoming to Splendour in the Grass. The use of RFID wristbands have helped reduce ticket fraud, shorten lines, acted as a form of payment (credit is uploaded to the wristband) and allowed festival goers to share what they're doing via social media throughout the day.
The functions of RFID wristbands also allow for other functions such as downloading a few songs from bands performing throughout the day, which helps act as a popularity booster for bands at the festival, and easily 'liking' or following bands on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
For the most part, all RFID functions work by having you RFID wristband connect with another RFID-enabled device. By allowing your wristband to be scanned/tagged by these other RFID devices, it will execute a specific function that will be tied to your serial number. For example, to get into the festival, you'll have your RFID wristband scanned by an RFID device. Want to 'like' a band on Facebook or download a couple of sample tracks of their music? Just go up to the allocated RFID-friendly device and place your wristband near it.
To enable things such as social functions, you have to register your RFID wristband beforehand so that on the day it can be logged in and automatically update your status. Of course, this function isn't for spamming. It works much like the aforementioned functions. If you're headed to see a particular band, you head towards their stage and then scan your wristband to create a status update that informs your friends which stage you're at and the band you're checking out. While all these functions may not necessarily be avaiable at Splendour in the Grass, these are just some of the features an RFID wristband offers.
As mentioned, NFC is derived from the same technology as that of RFID but its purpose is to work for more closed and secure activity. If you have a new bank card or credit card, chances are it may have the Pay Pass function on it, where you simply scan it against a Pay Pass scanner and the money is taken out instantaneously. Similarly, Translink's Go Cards work using NFC technology.
These days, certain mobile devices and smart phones also have NFC capabilities, allowing you to use them as a digital wallet. Certain smart phones also include device-specific NFC functions, such as Samsung's S Beam, where you can send files to other approved NFC-enable devices simply by having the devices touch each other back-to-back.
How RFID could change social media marketing
One of the initial indications of how RFID could help with social media marketing is the way in which it's being utilised at music festivals. As mentioned, RFID wristbands allow users to quickly update their statuses, 'like' bands, post photos of themselves and so much more. The entire nature of RFID is all about making things quicker, easier and more social.
While it's hard to see all the ways in which brands could utilise such technology, it's worth mentioning RFID can extend far beyond just the music festival scene. Brands could start embracing more RFID and NFC-friendly marketing. At other big events such as EOFY and Boxing Day sales, brands could become truly creative with how to offer people more incentive to engage with them.
Imagine if they had an RFID wristband that's tied to their Facebook account. When they're in your store, just before making a sale, you say that if they scan their wristband to 'like' your Facebook page, they'll get a further 20% off. Little steps like this could do a lot to build your social following. While the logistics of such a practice may not be clear cut, this is just an example of how RFID could help out in the social media landscape.
RFID also opens up the possibility to collect a whole lot of valuable and marketable data. Say you were hosting an art event that utilised RFID. For each attendee, they can scan a certain piece of art which posts it onto their social network accounts with an allocated hashtag. You can view those hashtags to find out what type of art resonated the majority of people. Then, your next event could focus on promoting more art of that type or delving deeper into that style.
It's still very early days in terms of RFID and social media, but music festivals are certainly paving the way into illustrating the numerous possibilities, and it's a safe bet that RFID will continue to grow in popularity with bigger events. There's some great potential here, and it's worth considering how RFID could impact your brand and its social media marketing efforts.
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