The Future of Customer Engagement

Much is being said about the latest generation of customer engagement technologies such as interactive digital signage, location-aware mobile apps and tablet-oriented kiosks. Marketers are excited with their ability to use these technologies to actively engage the consumer on a real-time, location-centric basis.  They are also excited about their ability to track and analyze, in real time, consumer interactions with the information being delivered via these technologies.

There is so much being said about these new technologies that very little is being said about “old school” customer engagement solutions such as printed signage, posters, brochures and direct marketing pieces.  Even less is being said about marketing effectiveness of promotional products and marketing premiums.

The assumption is that these “old school” engagement solutions are relics of a bygone era and not worthy of consideration in this age of anytime, anywhere digital information. These old school solutions, however, are about to go “new age” and this will lead to another big change in how marketers and consumers think about the world around them.

Imagine a world in which:

  • A printed poster can provide the viewer with real-time local inventory and pricing information for the product or service being depicted.
  • A brochure can deliver a video that explains the item being featured but do so in a way that is tailored to the viewer’s sex and/or age.
  • A promotional product, such as coffee cup, presents the menu of a sponsored restaurant that changes based upon time of day.
  • A marketing premium, such as a suitcase, presents a sponsor’s dining and entertainment recommendations specific to its current location.
  • A direct mail piece can promote only those items that are on sale and in stock at the closest store.

The world of customer engagement is changing and it’s all being enabled by a technology called NFC, which is an acronym for the term Near Field Communications. NFC is short-range wireless transmitter tags about the size of a postage stamp that can store and then transmit information to NFC-equipped smartphones.

By attaching NFC tags to traditional customer engagement media such as signage, posters, promotional products, mailers, etc., marketers can create unique digital content experiences that can be initiated with just a tap of a consumer’s NFC-equipped smartphone. When coupled with comprehensive content management capabilities residing in the backend, NFC tags can deliver customer engagement experiences that can change based upon factors such as time, date, temperature, location, inventory, pricing, etc.

This new technology will allow all of these old school digital interactions to be monitored, analyzed and reported at a level of granularity that would be impossible even with the newest customer engagement technologies. In addition, these digitally-enabled old school technologies will be deployable at a fraction of the cost of the newer technologies.   The depth of personal engagement will be better as well.

2013 will mark the coming of age of NFC.  Every smartphone manufacturer will include NFC in more models within their product lineups as they witness Samsung’s success with its Galaxy line of NFC-enable smartphones.

Yes, even Apple will be forced by competitive pressure to include NFC in their next generation of iPhone.  It has not gone unnoticed in Cupertino that Samsung, HTC, LG, Nokia, RIM, Motorola and many others are already shipping NFC-enabled phones in greater and greater quantities.  The rumor mill is saying that this phone will be released in June.

Once Apple releases an NFC-equipped phone, the market will clamor for NFC-enabled solutions.  This will likely create a buzz that will overshadow existing consumer engagement solutions.  This will mean that 2013 will be the start of a new era in customer engagement – an era that will provide significant opportunities for marketers, content management providers, solution integrators and consumers. I’m just glad to be a part of it all.

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