May 6, 2010, 1:13 PM

Target bellies up to the bar code

Target Corp. has recognized the power of two technologies, mobile and bar codes, to enhance the customer shopping experience. In March it became the first national retailer to offer mobile coupons that can be scanned by cashiers, leaning on its two-dimensional bar code scanners, which most retailers do not have, that are able to scan codes displayed on the screen of a mobile device.

Target Corp. has recognized the power of two technologies, mobile and bar codes, to enhance the customer shopping experience. In March it became the first national retailer to offer mobile coupons that can be scanned by cashiers, leaning on its two-dimensional bar code scanners, which most retailers do not have, that are able to scan codes displayed on the screen of a mobile device. (2-D bar codes carry much more data than conventional bar codes.) This was a huge step forward in the realm of mobile coupons.

Now Target, No. 21 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has brought the two technologies together again, this time turning iPhones into bar code scanners. While Target is not the first retailer or comparison shopping site to offer this service, it is the largest multichannel retailer to do so, which could give a push to use the combined technologies in retail.

The service is available through Target’s iPhone app, available for free at Apple Inc.’s App Store. Within the app, users select Bar code Scanning, which then prompts them to take a picture of a bar code on any product using the iPhone’s built-in camera. The app then automatically scans the image and displays a variety of product information, including pricing, availability, and customer ratings and reviews from Target.com.

“Target is committed to developing new tools to help simplify our guests’ shopping experience,” says Steve Eastman, president of Target.com. “As our guests increasingly turn to their mobile phone as a virtual shopping assistant, we recognize the importance of creating innovative solutions that enable them to interact with Target anywhere and anytime.”

Bar code scanning is among three new features in the latest update of the Target iPhone app. The new update also includes TargetLists, which enables shoppers to create on their mobile phones shopping and gift lists. The third addition is Daily Deals, a popular destination on Target.com that showcases special offers. Both TargetLists and Daily Deals also have been added to Target’s m-commerce site, m.Target.com.

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