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Near Field Could Change Retail In the Near Future

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RFID and NFC mobile technology are breathing life into our objects and changing the way we consume, manufacture and sell, so how could this influence the way we buy our shopping?

According to Gartner 2011, NFC (Near field communication) and RFID (Radio Frequency identification) technology are set to have a huge impact on the mobile realm in the coming years.

RFID and NFC are technologies that use radio waves to transfer data from an electronic tag which is attached to track and manage, assets and even people. Currently mobile RFID and near field communications are generally simplified and require the two devices to be close to each other, however, as the technology continues to gain momentum it is likely that capabilities will improve which could have a radical impact on its usefulness to major industries.

Most prominently RFID and NFC is likely to have a massive impact on marketing, transportation and retail. Picture yourself in a supermarket with no queues, stocked shelves and up to date store information; well this may not be as far away as you think. In the retail sector, consumers, manufacturers and retailers are all likely to be dramatically impacted by this technology, here are some ideas of how things could be changed in the near future.

1. The shopping experience

Adding NFC tags to your products enables consumers to scan their products want and even pay there and then without even going to the check out. Unlike bar code-based tracking systems, an RFID system can read the information on a tag without requiring line of sight and without the need for a particular orientation.

The tag can also have the capability to be programmed to hold important information such as an items serial number, description, colour, size, manufacture date and price. This makes RFID tags an ideal tool for price checking, special promotions and monitoring distribution points.

If the sophistication of the scanning devices improves to deal with long range readings, RFID tags could even be used to track down products in store using the combined functionality of GPS and the tags.

2. Payment

RFID payments technology means that you can now pay without the need for cash or cards. In fact payments can be made as simple as tapping your RFID enabled phone to a payment terminal. Even better with the ability to contain product and price information in the tag, in the not to distant future RFID technology is likely to provide opportunities to pay without the need of check outs, simply scan your products pay and leave.

3. Inventory management

Many brands including Abercrombie & Fitch, Levis and Kleenex have experimented with RFID tags to track their inventory at an item level. Although mobile capabilities are more limited, it can be anticipated that mobile tags will soon be sophisticated enough to track the location of each product they make from the time its made until its added to the shopping cart, enabling organisations to track through every level of the supply chain with the use of there mobile handset.

Manufacturers can tag goods during production so every one along the way, from supplier to manufacture to logistics teams and end consumers, can benefit from increased product information. For instance consumers will be able to buy fresh produce and know where the product orientated, dispatch date and how long it has been on the shelves, which is likely to increase customer confidence.

4. Marketing

Perhaps the biggest impact of RFID and NFC can be seen in marketing, where the use of RFID enables organisations to combine the physical world with the virtual world of social media to create a unique marketing experience. Retailers can engage shoppers  with a broad spectrum of interactive marketing experiences, simultaneously building loyalty and social media buzz. The tags can be used to create personal messages, offers and loyalty programs, which can be activated with the scan of a smart-phone.

These marketing benefits are not only limited to consumers, RFID and NFC can be used to monitor consumption habits and provide real time shopping analytics similar to google analytics for offline shopping behaviour. For instance what could be more useful then creating automated check in tags in your store so you know how many customers are in your store compared with your competitors.

Its clear to see why this technology is generating such a buzz and with one in five smart-phones set to include this functionality by 2014, it seems that it could be a key opportunity for innovators wanting to create something unique. Being one of the biggest up and coming trends in mobile we would like to know how you think this technology could be used and which industries you think would most benefit?

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