BLE and NFC are two significant players in the future retail environment. Because they offer a great deal of potential, it’s worth knowing what they can do for your business, but it’s also important to know how much they will cost your business.

The basic units

BLE beacons

BLE beacons are a relatively new concept. Beacons can range in price from $20 to $40, depending on the specifications.

NFC tags

NFC tags have existed for a while, and they are simple and cheap to manufacture. Individual tags generally cost between $0.10 and $0.60, depending on the specifications.

Fresh implementation costs

BLE

A fresh BLE implementation requires the customization and implementation of beacons, a technical support infrastructure, and access to or control of monitoring and reporting systems. Depending on the extent of the implementation, the retailer may also opt to install BLE-enabled payment systems that work from mobile apps. Additionally, BLE implementations require that the retailer’s beacons be recognized by either a proprietary app or a partner’s app.

BLE technology is newer, and some of the payment and support systems are either in development or expensive to use. Additionally, the per-unit price to enable BLE is higher (beacons cost much more than tags). However, retailers should remember that beacons can also broadcast signals across an entire department, so the number of beacons required for an implementation may be lower than the number of tags require for an implementation.

NFC

A fresh NFC implementation requires the customization and implementation of tags. Depending on the extent of the implementation, the retailer may also opt to install NFC-enabled point-of-sale systems that support contactless payments via EMV card or mobile wallet.

NFC technology has been around for several decades, and even NFC terminals have been out for a decent length of time. Therefore, the hardware is established and comparatively cheap. The tags themselves are very cheap, although retailers should remember that tags are very short range and must be manually engaged. Many tags may be required throughout the store.

Upgrade costs

BLE

Upgrading a typical retail system to support BLE is comparatively difficult because BLE is not in widespread use, and because BLE does not already interface with much of the technology used in the retail industry. The support infrastructure will require a fresh implementation if there is no existing infrastructure that could be adapted. Beacons will still need to be installed and supported by an app, although it is possible to upgrade an existing app to support BLE functionality.

Consumer hardware will be the primary barrier to success, assuming the upgrade is made.

NFC

NFC has the benefit of already being an established retail technology. With the emphasis on EMV technology, NFC-capable terminals are already on the market and in the markets. Upgrading to EMV-compliant NFC terminals is therefore cost effective, and it will be required in order to avoid EMV fraud liability shifts. Tags will still need to be installed and supported by an app, although it is possible to upgrade an existing app to support NFC.

Consumer hardware will be the primary barrier to success, assuming the upgrade is made.

For more information on upgrading to EMV/NFC terminals, contact an HMS sales associate.

Operating costs

BLE

There are several service models for BLE operations

  1. Managed service model: The vendor supplies both the beacon hardware and the support services required to implement, monitor, maintain, and customize the retailer’s BLE campaigns. Managed service is more expensive, but it is the most practical option for retailers that don’t have the technical expertise required to fully operate their own beacon system.
  2. Software as a Service model: The vendor supplies the beacon hardware and licenses the support software to the retailer so the retailer can monitor, maintain, and customize its own BLE campaigns.
  3. Partnership model: The retailer partners with third-party companies or groups to add support for its BLE campaigns to other platforms or apps.

Remember that BLE beacons, although efficient, do require power. There are both wireless and wired models. Wireless models can last up to two years on a charge, but the batteries will eventually need to be replaced or recharged.

NFC

NFC has little operating cost because the elements are mostly static. NFC tags are self-sufficient because they generate their own power and do not require updating. The main operating expense in NFC campaigns is maintaining and supporting the app that enables consumers to engage those campaigns.