April 6, 2011, 4:48 PM

Microsoft says smartphone users are catching on to 2-D bar codes

March was the biggest month for Microsoft’s Tag bar code scanning program since launch.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

The Microsoft Tag 2-D bar code

March was a record month for Microsoft Tag, the free mobile system that enables businesses to create 2-D bar codes that consumers scan with a smartphone camera to view mobile web pages with special content. Tag received 50% more scans in March than any other month since its launch in January 2009, Microsoft says.

Microsoft also reports that the number of monthly Tag scans has doubled over the past three months, and that the number of users per month has increased 2.5 times in that same period.

2-D bar codes present a black-and-white or color image vertically and horizontally and can contain much more information than their 1-D counterparts. Microsoft Tag is available at Tag.Microsoft.com, on mobile devices at GetTag.mobi and in smartphone app stores.

 “Brand adoption and consumer engagement continue to build, with March being our strongest month to date, due to several high-profile, well-executed campaigns,” says Aaron Getz, general manager of Microsoft Tag. “We continue to have tremendous success within publishing and also see increasing usage by retailers, consumer packaged goods companies and movie studios.”

Three billion Tags were printed during the past six months, and five billion Tags have been printed since Microsoft Tag’s launch, Microsoft says.  Publishing is the industry making the greatest use of Tags. Advertisers place Tag bar codes in advertisements and publishers place the codes within stories to link to supplemental content. Just behind publishing comes retail, followed by entertainment, Microsoft says.

Microsoft says its proprietary Tags recently appeared in publications, including USA Today, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and Woman’s Day. USA Today and Woman’s Day have increased their use of Tag and developed ongoing campaigns that span multiple issues, Microsoft says.

“We’re adding more Tags across multiple issues as we see increased engagement from our readers,” says Carlos Lamadrid, editor of Woman’s Day. “Most recently, we used Tag for a sweepstakes in March and saw record participation.”

Consumer packaged goods manufacturer The Procter & Gamble Company’s Herbal Essences is using Tag on shelf displays that link to an interactive mobile program to help a shopper choose the right hair products, while home improvement chain Lowe’s is using the technology on plant tags throughout its Garden Centers.

“Tags have proven to be an extremely efficient means to deliver our customers compelling content and decision tools during the shopping experience,” says Gihad Jawhar, vice president of Lowes.com.

Additionally, several movie studios, including Summit Entertainment LLC and Universal Studios, are promoting films by placing Tags on movie ads, posters and packaging that link to movie trailers, interactive mobile games and exclusive content.

Everything in the Tag system, from creating an account to generating Tags to watching performance through analytics, is free. Microsoft has said it will monetize Tag in the future by charging for more in-depth analytics.

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