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Mobile Barcodes Can Be a Powerful Tool Provided Marketers Add Value

Usage and awareness on the rise

May 4, 2011 | Mobile

Mobile barcodes, particularly the 2-D variety (such as QR codes), constitute a new tool for marketers looking to activate and measure the impact of static media, in-store displays and product packaging.

“Mobile barcodes hold promise for marketers as a mechanism for activating other media and providing a bridge between the physical and digital worlds,” said Noah Elkin, eMarketer principal analyst and author of the new report, “Mobile Barcodes: Trends and Best Practices for Marketers.” “But they also present challenges, including fragmentation between open and proprietary barcode formats and the requirement that consumers download a dedicated application to read the codes.”

In Japan, where QR codes originated, 2-D barcode usage is ubiquitous. Elsewhere in the world, usage is rapidly rising. According to 3GVision, an Israel-based provider of 1-D and 2-D barcode solutions, the top five countries in terms of barcode scanning growth in Q1 2011 were the US, UK, Netherlands, Spain and Canada.

Top 5 Countries, Ranked by Growth in Mobile Barcode Scans, Q1 2011 (% change vs. prior quarter)

On the marketer side, mobile barcodes hold potential for nearly every industry that needs to impart more information to consumers. And from retailers to consumer products brands to travel marketers, it is difficult to find industries that are not experimenting with mobile barcodes. Given the emphasis on activating traditional media and enhancing the in-store shopping experience, publishers and retailers, not surprisingly, are leading the way.

A February 2011 study fielded for marketing and communications agency MGH by Vision Critical found that 65% of US smartphone users had seen a QR code. They were most likely to have seen one on a product, indicating where marketers may get the most mileage out of using barcodes.

Locations in Which US Smartphone Users Have Seen QR Codes, Feb 2011 (% of respondents)

Consumers have tended to focus their barcode scanning activity on obtaining information about brands and products as well as triggering access to coupons and discounts. But marketers should note the distinction between consumers who are aware of barcodes’ existence and have tried scanning them vs. those who scan them with regularity.

“Marketers need to work with their carrier and handset partners to capitalize on awareness of 2-D barcodes and push consumers toward adoption and repeat usage,” said Elkin. “At this early stage, the more information the better about what content barcodes will activate, how to download the appropriate reader and how to activate the code.”

The full report, “Mobile Barcodes: Trends and Best Practices for Marketers” also answers these key questions:

  • How many consumers are using their mobile devices to scan barcodes?
  • What are the different ways marketers can use barcodes to deliver information to consumers?
  • Which brands and types of companies have been deploying barcodes effectively?
  • What are the main opportunities and challenges associated with mobile barcodes?

To purchase the report, click here. Total Access clients, log in and view the report now.

Check out today’s other article, “How to Avoid Overcounting Unique Users.”



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