Over the summer, Kraft Foods, in partnership with thinaire and News America, conducted a point-of-sale (POS) pilot study, which was based on the side-by-side use of near field communication (NFC) and QR Code technology. Here's how the study was conducted.
Five Safeway grocery stores were selected in the San Francisco Bay area to host the study. In each store, a shelf talker was placed next to specific Kraft cheese and Nabisco cookie products. Displayed on the shelf talker was interactive promotion and call-to-action copy, and a large mobile phone image (see picture below). Inside the mobile phone image was additional copy, an NFC icon, a QR Code and instructions to either "Tap" (to interact via NFC) or "Snap" (to interact via the QR Code). Embedded in the shelf talker was a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. The interactive promotion and call-to-action was to tap or snap for standalone product recipes, video product recipes, instant download of Kraft's iFood Assistant app and sharing on social media.
It's interesting to note that a mobile coupon was not offered during this study, as it was thought to take away from the real test of the technologies and what a simple, yet valuable, interactive experience would mean towards brand engagement.
Based on the study's findings, it seems as though the pilot was a success, as there were no "gross negatives" reported. At the shelf, consumer engagement increased from 5-10 to 48 seconds when NFC was involved. Response, as rated by the number of consumers who interacted with the talker via NFC, was more than 36%. The overall engagement level between NFC and QR Code was 12:1 in favor of NFC.
In reading about this campaign, and after speaking with a representative of thinaire, there a number of interesting takeaways from this pilot.
First, it's interesting to see NFC and QR Code technology being used side-by-side. For some time, it has been my belief that the print to mobile space (i.e., QR Codes, digital watermarks, NFC, augmented reality, etc.) is not a zero sum game. Sure each technology has its advantages and disadvantages, but it's not as though only one technology will prevail, so all campaigns must be placed on it. By the same token, it's not a matter of only using one type of technology at a time. If done correctly, and the situation calls for it, multiple technologies can be used simultaneously.
Second, by making use of two technologies, Kraft was able to offer consumers an 'interactive' choice and avail themselves to a potentially wider audience. Not all smartphones have NFC functionality and, by the same token, not all consumers have an installed code reader app.
Third, it was interesting to hear that a mobile coupon was purposely left out of the equation. Should this be a surprise? No, not really. If and when scan resolve content, whether it be NFC, QR Code, augmented reality, etc. related, is of value and benefit to the consumer then there is no real need for a price incentive to drive brand engagement. Here the recipes, the ability to download an app and the interactive mobile experience in and of itself is what drove engagement.
Fourth, and this relates to a post from a few days ago, the pilot offered the ability to share the experience socially. Same as above, if there is enough value and benefit to the consumer, and the experience truly resonates, then chances are high that the campaign will be shared. This is what marketers need to ask themselves before launching a campaign, mobile or otherwise, will people want to share it? If no, back to the drawing board. If yes, full steam ahead.
Fifth, does a study like this spell the end for QR Codes? Hardly. As stated above, each technology has its pluses and minuses, and each will work better in one situation or another. But, it's interesting to note that consumers, for whatever reason, perceived NFC to be easier, faster, better than QR Code, hence a higher engagement level. I would be curious to delve deeper here to better understand what a consumer might be thinking about or reacting to.
As print to mobile technologies continue to evolve and mature, marketers must realize that consumers may become confused by each individual technology, especially when seeing them side-by-side, as with the pilot study here. It's only through education can brands help consumers relate to and understand how to interact with a code or symbol, etc. And, it's also through meaningful, relevant and value-driven experiences that will keep consumers wanting to come back to tap or scan again.