2-D Barcodes Driving a 21st-Century Mobile Marketing Revolution [Business in Vancouver]

2-D Barcodes Driving a 21st-Century Mobile Marketing Revolution
Business In Vancouver
April 13, 2011

You see them popping up everywhere: funny little squares with squiggly black-and-white images. These quick response (QR) codes are two-dimensional barcodes read by cameraequipped smartphones.


Though they don’t look like much, these black boxes pack loads of power and data. QR codes are a huge leap over old-style linear barcodes: they contain up to 50 times more data, are read at much higher speeds and are legible at wide angle even if the code is partially damaged.


Linear barcodes have been heavily used for decades; QR codes were created in 1994 by Japan’s Denso-Wave to track assembly line components.  QR codes are cool and fun to scan and launch compelling content in one click. They’re an open, democratic communication tool that requires little training for users and benefits businesses with low cost and fast time to market. Finally, QRs are visually obvious, converting almost anything into a “get more” button.


QR codes enable companies and people to enjoy direct, tailored interaction – whether it’s to visit a website, subscribe to notices, donate money or register for events.


But the biggest news about QR codes is the growth in user adoption.


Two-dimensional, or mobile, barcode scanning is growing at light speed. More than 28% of Americans have already scanned barcodes. Both the Nielson Company and Mobile Marketing magazine report that by 2012, 50% of North Americans will use cameraenabled smartphones, with Europeans trailing slightly at 41% penetration.


Japan leads the way in QR code use: 75% of smartphone users happily pay with them at stores and vending machines. Japanese QR-enabled paperless transactions allow retail chains to improve distribution by co-operating with shippers; automated reporting enables suppliers and wholesalers to efficiently manage logistics.


As a huge, growing user base relies on devices to organize, communicate, shop, search and interact with the world, marketers turn to QR codes to reach them where and how they live via “mobile marketing.”


According to Victoria-based Laura Marriott, past-president of the US Mobile Marketing Association and acting CEO of NeoMedia Technologies, a creator of 2-D barcode solutions, “the potential of 2-D barcodes to significantly impact the way we live our lives is unparalleled. They offer a quick, dynamic means of mass information delivery that’s also specific, relevant and audience-targeted.”


The impact on consumption of content and marketing, communications and commerce is profound. Leveraging mobile barcode scanning is hot, and savvy marketers know it.


Marketing must touch consumers and, today, consumers conduct much of their work, play and personal lives on mobile devices.


Individuals add QRs to business cards to supercharge networking, extend email signatures, beef up the value of blog posts and extend their real-world business activity.


Mobile barcodes are being integrated into traditional and digital media campaigns: 22% of Fortune 500 companies incorporate them, including Nike, Ford and Kraft Foods.


Maynards’ recently ran a Canada-wide, QR-based promotion with a $25,000 prize. “On top of being a rich-media marketing tool,” Marriott said, “2-D barcodes are also an integral link in inventory control, workforce management, news and transportation.”


Each industry sector finds its own QR value – such as asset management, inventory control and loss prevention – but the initial priority is transferring information from paper to electronic form.


Best Buy is rolling out a large QR shelf tag campaign that will allow retail shoppers to scan QRs on shelf tags for user reviews and price comparisons.


Lufthansa, United Airlines and American Airlines use QRs in mobile tickets to ease passenger boarding. Various tourism agencies use QRs on driving maps to help tourists.


In England, the BBC helped create a series of “mobile coast walks,” in which visitors scan barcodes on coastline placards to find land and tour info.


True, QR codes are big, ugly and chew up space. Nonetheless, it’s clear that QRs play an increasingly vital role in business and marketing.


Wise marketers will see QR codes and mobile marketing as providing consumers with multiple, tailored ways to engage them.


As Riel Roussopoulos of Vancouver QR marketing specialist Scan2 Technologies highlights, “QR codes are to mobile what URLs are to the Internet. Soon you’ll see them on everything from product packaging to airport information signs.”


Judy Bishop (judy@judybishop.ca) is managing partner of Bishop + Company, a provider of corporate and marketing services to changing companies since 1991.  Her Business in Vancouver newspaper column appears monthly.


This article from Business in Vancouver April 12-18, 2011; issue 1120
Business in Vancouver (www.biv.com) has been publishing in-depth local business news, analysis and commentary since 1989. The newspaper also produces a weekly ranked list of the biggest companies and players in a wide range of B.C. industries and commercial sectors, monthly features and industry-focused sections that arm its subscribers with a complete package of local business intelligence each week.