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Nick Mawditt 

The future potential for NFC-based interactivity in Out of Home

Nick Mawditt, global director of marketing and insight at Kinetic Worldwide, says there is a clear willingness among mobile users to interact with brand campaigns (content being main driver of interactivity above brand)...

The last year has seen many examples of brands physically engaging with audiences who are on the move or out of home, as technology has really opened up the potential, both via smartphone functionality and our thirst for communication and gaming via augmented reality, touch, gesture and location technology.

The growth of digital OOH has helped this shift in the possibilities for Out of Home. But there are now signs of real appetite for interaction and content download as technology advances in mobile payment, near-field communication (NFC) and 3G technologies advance our use of devices as means to facilitate our lives and engage with the brands we find exciting and engaging.

In a UK first, all of JCDecaux's Reading bus shelters and poster sites went fully interactive for four weeks in March, allowing people to download content, information, offers and directly engage with brands through an NFC or QR link to their smartphone. 13 Kinetic clients tested real interactive content across these experiences to give us real data, insight and learnings about the current and future position of interactivity and OOH.


The results clearly show us that new technology is fuelling the public's appetite for interactive Out of Home advertising. Over 3000 people in Reading scanned the poster sites and people were overwhelmingly positive about the experience, citing the ease of use of technology (in particular NFC) as a real driver.

Conversion and redemption rates were particularly high, signalling our propensity for engaging with video content and data capture, plus a real and immediate demand for mobile coupons. The average initial download conversion rate was 24% and ultimate voucher redemption - where tested - was 7%. Conversion rates even got stronger across the four weeks.

The total estimated interaction rate was 1.7% of NFC/QR-enabled smartphone users based on Postar and comScore estimates of footfall and technology penetration. And this, at a time when NFC penetration remains low and the educative process around interactivity remains in its infancy.

What are the drivers for interactivity?

The study found that the brands that elicited the most positive interactions did so through a combination of relevance, dynamic content and a strong call-to-action.

The brands that drove the highest engagement - including Lynx, DVD launches and grocery retail - offered a compelling reason to engage and the download potential was about offering something new that could deepen and reinforce the brand relationship, or indeed offer some price-reduction benefit.

Notably, there was real enthusiasm around the concept of interacting and people were generally keen to trial the technology. 83% of those researched across the trial period were positively surprised by its simplicity and immediacy, especially using NFC.

Conversion rates and interactivity relative to footfall

Conversion and interactivity rates compare very favourably to digital and other media. Voucher redemption, video content and - in the main - data capture experiences all performed strongly. The trial saw an average initial conversion rate - from scanning to measured download of content - of 24%, with video content the most attractive.

Where people had an opportunity to download further content or register, the conversion rate remained high at 21% (of the original interaction). The average voucher redemption rate was 7%, but this got stronger across the four weeks and saw a weekly offer high of 18%.

The key to success was the relevance to the consumer and experiences that built upon an existing brand relationship. Voucher redemptions were found to attract new customers, with activity highest where the poster site was in proximity to the store.

Consumer feedback

People were unanimously positive about the interactive experience; 78% of consumers were positive, 44% rated it as excellent. Propensity to engage with the technology in future is strong, with males currently more likely. We found people in a generally positive mind-state and generally relaxed and curious. A minority were self-conscious and wary of technology. When shown how NFC works, there was overwhelming interest and a strong recognition of future potential.

These results demonstrate there is clear potential for brand engagement while we're on the move. Social media can be a strong enabler of the experience, but not in isolation - the data and the consumer insight both support this - but there is real potential impact on the OOH medium, changing it into something perceptively different and tangible.

The future

Not every brand realised interactive success. Content is the key driver and for additional conversion, brands must ensure a strong reason for data capture, plus a clear call to action on the poster or screen itself.

Based on Reading's smartphone and QR/NFC-enabled universe, we estimate a national campaign can immediately drive potential for real interactive engagement with over 800,000 adults in the early stages of activity. Location will work best in higher dwell time environments where the consumer is relaxed and curious - like malls and transport hubs.

What we have, though, is a clear willingness among mobile users to interact with brand campaigns (content being main driver of interactivity above brand); that QR codes are a rational interim method of accessing online content from offline media (90% of interactions were via QR); that NFC will almost certainly prevail in the long term and that there is an immediate opportunity to target the right brand and the right contact at this new consumer.

Mediatel operate two essential services for the OOH industry. SPACE is a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart and is the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of inventory in the UK. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution that enables easy integration of Route audience data into client's systems. See for more information.

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