A few months ago, I posted a blog about NFC’s role as a disruptive driver in consumer goods. I described how, by connecting brands to consumers in a fast, seamless, and secure way, NFC is adding everyday items to the Internet of Things (IoT).
For brand owners in the retail sector, NFC is an ideal investment because it combines physical products with a secure digital application, and thereby creates an enhanced, better protected brand experience.
And now, NFC just got another big boost. Apple recently announced that iOS 11 will support NFC tag reading on phones. That’s a game-changer for NFC, since all iPhone 7s and newer models will be able to read NFC tags just like Android devices. It means that most of the two billion people worldwide who own smartphones will also have an NFC reader to interact with NFC tags. As a result, NFC will enable many more consumer and brand-owner benefits.
The Special Case of Fashion & Accessories
Apparel and footwear – a global market expected to reach USD 2 trillion within the next year – presents a unique set of challenges to brand owners.
- Engaging with the consumer
The combination of “omni-channel” retailing, with its combination of physical and virtual storefronts, and mobile-first, always-on consumers, is changing how brands deliver the consumer experience. Other retail purchases, even those beyond fashion and lifestyle, compete for share of wallet, and consumers are increasingly influenced by online interactions. Be it product discovery, peer influence, or special offers, digital interactions, which are largely driven by mobile, are said to influence three out of four purchases. NFC gives mobile consumers a convenient way to engage with pre-sale information, like product details, reviews, and so on, but NFC also extends beyond the purchase, becoming part of the wearer’s experience with the item itself, throughout its life cycle.
- Protecting the brand
Counterfeit products, and the associated damage they do to sales and reputations, represent a serious threat to brand owners. The industry analyst Vandagraf Research estimates that 20% of sportswear, 10% of luxury apparel, and 10% of mass-market leather goods are fake. Since NFC supports digital authentication, the technology makes it harder for counterfeiters to present knock-offs as the real thing, and gives consumers an easy way to verify authenticity.
Some analysts are forecasting that, by 2021, 20% of all apparel in the developed world will be connected to the cloud. Vandagraf’s estimates are more conservative, but still quite bullish: they estimate that, by 2021, there will be 1.1 billion IoT-connected apparel items that can interact with mobile readers.
As mentioned above, NFC does more for brand owners than link consumers to websites. It protects brands with digital authentication, increases consumer engagement with a high degree of interaction, and uses location awareness to provide more useful information. And it does all this with just a simple NFC tag, embedded or attached to the clothing at the point of manufacture. The tag uses its unique digital profile to connect the physical item to the cloud, and leverages its online dataset to extend actions.
- Brand protection: Delivers stronger product protection to help tackle counterfeit sales, as well as loss prevention related to fraudulent returns. Consumers and business inspectors can use an NFC phone to digitally verify a product is genuine, anywhere and at any time. Tags, assigned to specific locations or distributors, can also be used for channel authentication to identify sales outside authorized markets (grey markets).
- Consumer engagement / Mobile Marketing: Enhances brand value and builds loyalty, with NFC tags letting the product itself deliver brand content, helpful services, and personalized experiences. Consumers can quickly access important details about fabric and design, re-order products they like, receive personalized recommendations – including styling suggestions or health and fitness content – or benefit from loyalty rewards, such as exclusive digital content or VIP offers.
- Location awareness: With the help of connected readers and the cloud, NFC tags can provide data on product location, to help check traceability along the distribution chain or identify clusters of counterfeits. Location awareness also contextualizes consumer messages, based on where the product is sold or used, and can be used to deliver dynamic marketing data in real time, based on the product at hand.
Real-World Examples in Fashion & Accessories
Brand owners in the fashion & accessories segment have been quick to adopt NFC as a way to engage with consumers and protect their reputations. The list below, presented alphabetically by company name, gives an idea of how brands are putting NFC to work.
- Dyne Menswear – the future of technical clothing.
This forward-thinking menswear designer creates sportswear that embodies innovative fabrics, fit, and function, and considers the NFC technology detail in each garment’s DNA an essential component of the DYNE brand. Tapping a smartphone to the garment unlocks direct access to the clothing catalog, with an interface that supports multiple languages. Users can learn more about the company’s philosophy and design aesthetic, get updates from social media, access a custom music playlist and explore the unique DYNE approach to fabric, engineer, fit, function, and innovation. In their published case study, Dyne claims an ROI of 219%, by increasing user engagement while growing sales and closing more deals with retailers. For their NFC-enabled clothing line, DYNE has partnered with Smartrac, a global leader in NFC products and IoT solutions, and Blue Bite, creators of a digital experience engine for smart objects.
- Khongboon Activewear – real-time interactions and personalization
As part of its swimwear line and new line of activewear, this global brand uses NFC to deliver mobile engagements with its customers. Khongboon transforms clothing into smartwear, allowing consumers to directly engage with the brand through their connected apparel, at each point in the garment’s life. Interacting with the Khongboon website, consumers can access product information, a collection lookbook, real-time social-media feeds, and a countdown to the next content update. More personalized features, including exclusive promotions and contextually-aware components, such as nearby gym locations or running paths, and fitness tracking, are in the works. Khongboon is another Smartrac/Blue Bite partner.
- Moncler – advanced digital solution against counterfeiting
The luxury Italian-French fashion house, known for its chic ‘puffer’ jackets, has been using NFC technology to stem the rising tide of fraudsters, especially in China. For Moncler, an iconic brand and qualitative benchmark at a global level, the battle against counterfeiting is a fundamental objective. An advanced NFC anti-counterfeiting system is used to confirm the authenticity of a product and enable an interactive and effective verification procedure, by reading the NFC tag with a specific app that can be easily downloaded to customers’ smartphones. The NFC tag is aesthetically shaped just like the emblematic logo of the brand. Moncler’s high-tech defense aims to control the market, offering transparency and protection under all aspects, for its customers who choose an original Moncler product for its high quality and aesthetic.
- Rochambeau Bright Bmbr Jacket– one-of-a-kind personalized experiences
This award-winning, New York-based fashion house has produced a limited-edition smart jacket that features a special NFC-enabled label that unlocks access to curated experiences and specially selected gifts. Wearers can unlock a hand-picked selection of unique New York City restaurant, gallery, club, retail, and fashion experiences. Personalized gifts can be collected by using a phone to scan the garment when the wearer is within 500 yards of an exclusive set of retail outlets. The jacket also unlocks access to other unique items, such as a signed, numbered piece of artwork inspired by the jacket and an individual “making of” video. For their part, Rochambeau benefits from direct customer relationships and deeper insights into consumer preferences. In creating the jacket, Romchambeau worked with the retail branding division of Avery Dennison, a global leader in labeling and packaging materials, and EVRYTHNG, an innovative IoT cloud platform for consumer-product experiences and smarter product operations.
- Victorinox Travel Gear – best-in-class trademark protection
The Swiss company’s luxury luggage division now uses smart NFC labels to give each product its own unique identity. As a result, anyone with a conventional smartphone, anywhere in the world, can identify and authenticate each individual product as an original. Victorinox chose NFC for its easy scalability, and for its ability to offer a range of innovative digital services. Viewing digitally authorized products as a media and service gateway for a direct, personal customer dialog, the company plans to use NFC to offer real-time product information pre- and post-sale, as well as exclusive customer support such as travel insurance, user-friendly reorder services, and more. Victorinox’s NFC solution was developed in partnership with the RAKO Group (All4Labels) a leading manufacturer of adhesive labels and flexible packaging, and Goods TAG, a Berlin-based provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS) for global ID and product relationships management.
NXP leading the way
Many of today’s innovative use cases are made possible by NTAG®, NXP’s advanced portfolio of smart NFC tags. NXP co-invented NFC and is the leading supplier of semiconductor solutions for digital ID applications.
When it comes to using NFC for advanced brand protection and enhancement, brand owners can now rely on the NTAG 413 DNA to deliver an extra level of security. NTAG DNA offers AES cryptography and a new SUN feature, which generates a unique authentication code each time the tag is tapped. The result is more advanced product protection against counterfeiting, and secured, exclusive user experiences that increase customer satisfaction. Consumers simply tap the tag to automatically connect to a trusted web service to verify the secure code. There’s no need for an onboard app. The added security of NTAG DNA also helps brand owners who want to reward consumers who own a product, as part of a promotional campaign or a loyalty program, while blocking any fraudulent attempts to copy, share, or manipulate the URLs associated with reward offers.
Just the beginning
As NFC continues to gain momentum in the consumer sector, it will drive new value for brand owners, with incremental revenue and increased brand loyalty. NFC will also bring more engaging experiences to consumers, with new access to brand content, offers, digital services, and personalized value-adds.
At the same time, NXP will continue to provide the enabling technologies – like the new NTAG 413 DNA – that make NFC-enabled fashion and accessories such a powerful trend in retail.
The fashion & accessories segment is just one of the many retails industries benefitting from NFC. We’ll cover other verticals, including wine and spirits, in upcoming blogs