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Argos Tries NFC in Its Stores

The U.K. retailer is testing the technology for three months to determine how it can boost customer engagement by enabling access to product info and discounts via RFID-tagged posters.
By Claire Swedberg
Tags: NFC, Retail
Feb 14, 2014

British retailer Argos is piloting an program in 40 of its approximately 750 stores that lets shoppers access the store catalog, as well as coupons and discount information by tapping touching an NFC-enabled phone to any of 88,000 "TapPoints" that incorporate Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID inlays. The solution, known as Mobile-in-Retail, is being used in the stores for an initial initiative that will last 90 days, after which Argos will gauge the results and determine whether to proceed with a larger permanent deployment.

Argos sells toys, home furnishings, personal-care items and electronics through its physical stores as well as a 2,000-page-long online product catalog. As part of a larger effort at reinventing its brand and modernizing how it reaches its customers, the retailer is attempting to link its brick-and-mortar stores with its online marketplace, and enable customers to purchase any of the company's products as efficiently as possible, as well as to access information about product discounts.

A shopper at a participating Argos store taps her NFC-enabled phone against a staff member's TapPoint card, prompting the handset to go to the Google Play site to download and install the Argos app.

The company began working with Proxama—a mobile wallet, marketing and loyalty company based in London—about four months ago, to develop and begin testing an NFC-based solution that would let Argos engage with its customers electronically, explains Miles Quitmann, Proxama's managing director and chief commercial officer. (Argos declined to comment for this story.)

The technology was installed at 40 Argos stores by mid January, and the retailer will evaluate the results at the end of the initiative, in April. The technology relies on consumers' NFC-enabled Android-based phones and an Argos app downloaded from Google Play. The phone automatically accesses the Argos catalog of merchandise when the app is open, as well as acquires specific details about products through taps of the phone against TapPoints, made with 13.56 MHz passive NFC RFID inlays supplied by printed electronics manufacturer Kovio (acquired by Thinfilm in January). The TapPoints are embedded in posters and leaflets and in cards worn on lanyards by staff members in the 40 stores. Altogether Argos is using 88,000 TapPoints, each with an RFID tag encoded with its own unique ID number.

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