Are mobile bar codes changing the way consumers shop?

By Rimma Kats

February 23, 2012

Mobile bar codes are increasingly gaining momentum and companies such as Toys R Us and Glamour are placing them on billboards and walls – providing consumers another way to shop their favorite products.

Although the technology is still emerging, it certainly has the opportunity to change the way consumers shop. Brands and marketers are beginning to see the potential of mobile bar codes and are using them in their marketing strategies.

“The immediacy of being able to purchase something you see advertised in a magazine or other out-of-home signage allows consumers to conveniently purchase the product on-the-spot, without having to search or step foot into a store,” said Nicole Skogg, CEO of SpyderLynk, New York .

“We believe that the use of mobile bar codes overall, especially mcommerce-enabled bar codes, will continue to grow as consumers become more familiar with the technology,” she said. “Adoption rates will also continue to grow as marketers think more strategically about the use of bar codes and become more focused on delivering value.

“Well-executed, mobile bar codes drive consumer consideration and help position a brand as relevant and enticing. Poorly executed mobile bar codes, at best, serve to frustrate consumers and, at worst, are ignored all together.”

On the go shopping
Last year, Toys R Us rolled out a virtual store that let consumers scan QR codes featured on billboards and shop the company’s 2011 Hot Toy List.

On-the-go commuters and travelers in the New York metro area were encouraged to take part in the initiative. The billboards were located in John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and nearly 40 NJ Transit Stations feature the showcased items.

Most recently, Glamour unveiled its Apothecary Wall that features products from Unilever and Juicy Couture.

The Apothecary Wall has SpyderLynk Snaptags next to each product. Users are encouraged to download Glamour’s Friends & Fans iPhone app to scan the mobile bar code and buy the featured product right then and there.

“Placement is critical to success in adoption rates,” Ms. Skogg said. “One of our key messages to our clients is that the placement of a mobile bar code will drive usage.

“Engaged media such as magazines, email, online and street teams at events will drive higher response rates than passive media such as event displays and out-of-home signage like a billboard – which is typically passed by rather than viewed from a closer proximity while standing still, making it difficult for consumers to engage,” she said. “There are much more creative ways to deploy bar codes with the Apothecary Wall being an excellent example.

“Glamour’s innovative use of the Apothecary Wall allowed them to extend the reach of the magazine, while making it fun for consumers to shop on-the-spot. By recreating a shopping isle with a 2D design, the Apothecary Wall was intuitive, approachable and easy for consumers to interact with.”

Mobile sophistication
There is an increase in the sophistication of mobile bar codes and their implementation compared to last year.

Brands and marketers are incorporating mobile bar codes across their entire marketing mix.

This comprehensive approach to mobile is giving marketers the ability to model, segment and better target consumers.

Mobile commerce-enabled mobile bar codes give retailers the opportunity to extend the reach of their bricks-and-mortar retail outlets.

“We are beginning to see mobile bar codes have an impact on the retail experience however, there is still much consumer education and awareness needed for mobile bar codes to really change the way consumers shop,” said Laura Marriott, CEO of NeoMedia Technologies, Boulder, CO.

“Many major global brands and retailers, such as Calvin Klein, McDonalds, Macy’s and Target, have helped to increase this awareness by taking advantage of the ability mobile bar codes provide to bring engagement and interactivity to a consumer’s experience with a brand,” she said.

“By simply scanning the mobile bar code, consumers can instantly access an unlimited amount of data on the brand and product of interest – from product information and reviews to special offers – but further integration with a brand or retailer’s existing loyalty, CRM or couponing implementations will also help to drive consumer uptake.”

According to Ms. Marriott, mobile bar codes provide an easy, instant means to connect with the brand.

“I believe we will see significant uptake of these services,” Ms. Marriott said. “Mobile bar codes still have a bit of the newness factor and are fun to engage with, which definitely also helps to drive interactions.

“And making the shopping experience even more accessible to consumers via mobile bar codes, is definitely a winning combination,” she said. “We do expect to see these types of initiatives becoming more commonplace in the next year, which will help consumers become more comfortable with using their mobile to scan and buy on the go.

“In 2012 we should expect to see a rise in mobile bar code scanning implementations resulting in greater consumer participation, expanded loyalty initiatives and an overall enhanced consumer experience when in-store – much more than a simple resolution to a Web URL.  Coupled with this, we expect to see hardware solutions in retail support mobile bar code scanning on a much wider basis in 2012.”

Mobile bar codes make shoppers more intelligent wherever they may be.

Consumers access more relevant content based on what their specific interests.

Additionally, with mobile bar codes shoppers can now access product reviews and price comparisons via their mobile device. This allows them to make more informed decisions on the spot when making a purchase.

“We do see some customers getting more comfortable buying products on their mobile devices, but we are not at the mass adoption level yet,” said Mike Wehrs, CEO of Scanbuy, New York. “Thousands of people made purchases through our app over the holidays as they were scanning UPC codes from products, but there are many ways for retailers to harness that activity.

“Virtual shops are a growing phenomenon which can really enable someone to buy from anywhere,” he said.