March 8, 2012, 2:12 PM

How to avoid mobile bar code campaign mistakes

First, don’t assume consumers know what to do with them.

Kevin Woodward

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Successful bar code campaigns require careful thought and avoiding mistakes.

Retailers embarking on a mobile marketing campaign relying on bar codes might want to consider that not all consumers know how to use them. That is mistake number one, says AT&T Inc., based on its work with mobile marketing campaigns.

Merchants should take note because 41% of marketers surveyed by AT&T in September said they anticipate deploying a mobile bar code campaign in the next 12 months. Consumers use their smartphones to scan bar codes to open mobile web sites, watch videos or get coupons. AT&T, one of the leading U.S. providers of mobile phone service, launched a mobile bar code services business unit last year that offers analytics about scans and a free bar code scanner app for consumers.

Campaigns may entail one or two types of common bar codes. The Universal Product Code, or UPC, is a one-dimensional bar code found on virtually all consumer goods. Scanning a 1-D code can lead to product information hosted on the mobile web by a scanning company, a comparison shopping engine, a retailer or other companies.

A QR code is a form of two-dimensional bar code. It appears typically as a black-and-white square with a pattern of tiny black-and-white squares within; sometimes a company may include its logo within the square. A consumer downloads a QR code scanner app onto his smartphone. He opens the app, points the smartphone camera at the QR code, and the app reads the code and connects him to mobile web-based content.

“To the uninitiated consumer, mobile bar codes look strange and mysterious,” AT&T says. Marketers should include instructions for scanning bar codes, a link to a scanner app and a hint at what happens after scanning a code, says Igor Glubochansky, executive director for AT&T’s mobile marketing solutions team.

Another requirement is to ensure the bar code links to a mobile optimized site, he says. “No one appreciates having to constantly zoom in and out of a web page,” he says of non-optimized desktop web site pages.

Retailers also should give consumers an incentive, such as a coupon or discount, to scan a bar code, Gluboshancky says. That can help increase the number of times consumers scan a code.

Integrate bar codes into campaigns, and not just as solitary marketing items, he adds. They should be part of all marketing materials in a campaign.

Another component is tracking the data generated when consumers scan bar codes. Not all bar code scanning apps supply analytic information about scans, Glubochansky says. “Look for a provider that offers demographic and location details or real-time updates so you can change the linked-to content anytime, without having to recreate the bar code and collateral,” he says.

Incorporating these suggestions into a mobile bar code campaign can help retailers, he adds, especially as more merchants choose bar codes to link their bricks-and-mortar stores to mobile content accessed via smartphones. “Mobile bar codes can provide anything from product information at the point of sale to contests and how-to videos,” Glubochansky says. “They open new channels for a direct dialogue with consumers.”

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