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RFID Can Build Customer Loyalty

The technology can be used to populate a customized Web page with data, enabling customers to see their interactions with an entertainment establishment, fitness company or retailer.
By Mark Roberti
Aug 24, 2009I got a call the other day from a gentleman who is investing in an entertainment company in the Dallas area. "We want it to be the Nordstrom of our industry," he said. "We want to provide a great customer experience, and I've heard radio frequency identification might be able to help."

We brainstormed ideas for 20 minutes—from using loyalty cards to creating personalized Web pages—and he went away excited about the potential for employing RFID not only to improve the customer experience, but also to generate additional business. It got me thinking that we really haven't begun to explore how RFID could enable companies to share information with patrons online. Let me throw out a few ideas that might get people thinking of innovative ways to use RFID.

There's a facility near our home where my son takes baseball lessons and practices in the winter. It has batting cages, indoor fields, pitching mounds and so forth. You can buy a $40 card entitling you to 50 tokens for the batting cages; each time you get a token, an employee marks the card manually. Obviously, this could be more effective if electronic tokens were stored on a smart card or Near Field Communication (NFC) device, with one token deducted automatically each time you used the batting cage.

But what if there were a mechanism that could capture a batter's hits and misses, or a pitcher's speed, balls and strikes? Each time my son entered the batting cage, he could swipe his card and the system could record his performance. That data could be uploaded automatically to his personal page on the training facility's Web site, for him to review later. The feedback might show that more practice leads to better results, and thus encourage him to practice more (and spend more money at the training facility).

The training facility could also run competitions for the best hitter and the best pitcher. Let's say kids pay $10 each to enter a hitting contest. If they do well, they proceed to the next round, against others in their age group. Each child's results could be recorded and included on their Web page, and the "league" leaders could be displayed on the facility's homepage. These kinds of competitions, which stir sales, are sometimes run today, but there's no way to easily capture information and display it online, where participants can review it. And it's the visibility, after all, that would increase participation—kids, as well as adults, like others to see how good they are at something.

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