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BLE and NFC: Combine to Succeed

Since the release of the iPhone 5S, conversations surrounding one of its most prominent features the iBeacon, which exploits a new variant of Bluetooth technology which uses considerably lower power, has been making headlines.

A myth I’d like to address is that Near Field Communications (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) can’t work together and that it has to be an either/or.  BLE is not a direct competitor or threat to NFC. In fact, BLE is complimentary to NFC and vice-versa.

The key difference between the two technologies is that one operates using a PUSH strategy and the other using a PULL strategy. And it’s exactly this that makes them compatible. When applied within proximity marketing campaigns, PUSH and PULL strategies work simultaneously together.

PULL marketing; creating content that incentivises consumers to seek you out is the best way to find qualified leads, as the consumer initiates the action of engagement. If you were to only choose one, then this by itself would deliver the most ROI simply because if a consumer takes action as a result of something they see e.g. a poster, then they are showing highly positive signs of readiness to engage in the purchase cycle. With PULL technologies like NFC, the consumer does not need an App on their smartphone in order to engage, so it's ideal for engaging new customers.

PUSH messaging can prove to be a strong empowerment tool for brands. But it’s fragile in its effectiveness. Consumers are quick to dismiss content that they deem irrelevant, especially on their highly personal mobile phone. Hence PUSH messaging is only effective once the brand has established a trust relationship and the consumer has already opted-in to receive content from them. Pushing a deal to the wrong person at the wrong time turns an offer into spam. And we all know how much consumers love spam!

BLE isn’t just another technology, it has a profound impact within the retail and m-commerce space, which is why a few years ago we acquired Hypertag, the leader in traditional Bluetooth marketing. Hyper-local targeting by department, by floor and by aisle will enable brands to push marketing messages to increase sales and profit.

So, how exactly can BLE and NFC work together? Well, imagine you see an advert at a bus stop promoting the download of an app with a 25% off coupon as an incentive for doing so, you tap your phone using NFC to download and collect. Two days later you walk past the retail store for which you had previously stored the voucher, BLE beacons at the store will activate the app and display an appropriate message on your smartphone prompting you to use your coupon - which by then you have most likely forgotten about!

It is exactly this type of experience which binds NFC and BLE together. No spamming – it’s personal and it’s relevant. Although both technologies are different, when combined they provide a powerful engagement tool. Brands, retailers and media owners will need to support the right combination of technologies to deliver the most compelling consumer engagement experience possible. We now all need to move on from the NFC vs BLE debate, and focus on developing technology agnostic mobile proximity engagement strategies for physical world media.


Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 09 December, 2013, 08:40Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Exactly! -- It's good to see even such "NFC-heavy" companies as Proxama promoting BLE (which can be, btw, used for both push and pull - Apple is already showing us that). In-store payments is another compelling use of NFC+BLE (or NFC emulation via BLE).